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Family pleads for return of items from girl's grave

March 15, 1998

Family pleads for return of items from girl's grave

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The gravesite of a murdered 7-year-old Berkeley County girl has been victimized by thieves, according to West Virginia State Police.

A flower vase and a statue of the Virgin Mary have been removed from Jessica Newell's gravesite at Memory Gardens on W.Va. 9 in Baker Heights, police said.

When the items were taken was not known but they were missed this past week, police said.

The family has put out a plea for the return of the items - no questions asked, according to Trooper J.M. Droppelman.

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In early March, Michael Newell, 39, of 2105 Winchester Ave., entered a not guilty plea to first-degree murder, kidnapping and felony murder charges in the death of his young niece.

The child's body was found in the wooded North Mountain area on Sept. 20, two days after she disappeared from a Martinsburg bowling alley.

His trial has been scheduled for the week of July 6. Michael Newell's attorney, Aaron Amore, is seeking to have the trial moved out of Berkeley County.

In the same area where Jessica was found, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation found a plastic bag containing one of Jessica's shoes, a washcloth, a pack of cigarettes and a child's bed sheet.

The cigarettes had Michael Newell's fingerprints on them, court records show, and a matching sheet and a pillowcase were found at his home.

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