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Newell denied bond

December 02, 1997

Newell denied bond

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Bond was denied Monday in Berkeley County Circuit Court to Michael Allen Newell, the man arrested in September for allegedly kidnapping and murdering his 7-year-old niece, Jessica Lynn Newell.

Newell's mother Janice and brother Timothy testified on his behalf at the hearing, but Judge Thomas Steptoe noted the prosecution's evidence against him for "two capital offenses of an unspeakable barbarity."

Steptoe said "it's difficult for the court to predict" if Newell is a threat to commit another crime or flee, despite having no previous criminal history.

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The prosecution's evidence against Newell may go to a grand jury in February.

Wearing handcuffs and leg irons, Newell, 39, testified he served in the Air Force for 14 years before returning to Berkeley County.

"One of the main jobs I had was taking care of classified information ... very extensive background checks," he said.

On cross-examination by Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games--Neely, he said his was a "normal secret clearance" that required no extensive psychological evaluation.

He said he has no passport and would abide by electronically monitored house arrest if released on bond.

Janice Newell said she never saw her son act violently or inappropriately toward children. His brother Timothy, a longtime female friend and a co-worker from Variform also testified he had no history of violence.

"This is a divided family ... They are forced to choose between a granddaughter and a son," Games-Neely said of the Newells. Michael Newell's father was also in the courtroom. Jessica's parents, David and Deborah Newell, did not attend.

Michael Newell's personal safety and that of his family were an issue. Defense attorney Aaron Amore said some harassing calls were made to the Newells' Winchester Avenue home after the arrest, but "there's been no specific evidence of death threats in this case."

Games-Neely said police are investigating threats against Newell. After the hearing she said her office has also received calls, but "it's the silent ones we worry about."

Amore noted that Robert Lee Sparkman, convicted in the death of Amanda Smailes during a 1996 pursuit by police, had been released on bond prior to trial.

"This is one of the highest profile cases in Berkeley County in a long, long time. I do not put this in the same category as the Sparkman case," Games-Neely said.

Jessica Newell disappeared from Pikeside Bowl on Sept. 18 and her body was found in a remote wooded area two days later. Games-Neely revealed at the hearing that there is a witness who saw her leaving in a car with her uncle that night.

Amore told Steptoe the witness is a "little girl" and challenged forensic evidence collected by the FBI. That includes one of Jessica's shoes and a cigarette pack bearing Michael Newell's fingerprint found in a plastic bag about a mile from the body.

Amore said the evidence turned up after the discovery of the body and several searches of Newell's home and car.

Games-Neely told the judge that DNA and other tests are incomplete, but there is possible hair and fiber evidence from the car.

Amore countered that Jessica Newell had been in the car about two weeks before she disappeared.

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