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Catlett murder trial postponed

March 24, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

Catlett murder trial postponed

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The first-degree murder trial of a Hedgesville, W.Va., man, scheduled to begin today, has been postponed so his attorney can rebut evidence that he is lucid enough to accept responsibility for Andrew Mason's death.

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Public Defender Jerry Dambro wanted time to review opinions of prosecution witnesses, a psychiatrist and a psychologist, who believe Banner Catlett is criminally liable.

"My evidence states he's completely sane in the sense he's malingering, which means he doesn't have a mental illness which would prevent him from accepting responsibility for his crime," Games-Neely said.

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"Dambro's saying he's competent to stand trial, but is not criminally responsible for what he did," she added.

Catlett's three-day trial was rescheduled to begin April 28.

On Feb. 4, 1997, Mason, 29, was found dead in his Hedgesville mobile home. He was shot twice in the head and partially decapitated, according to court documents from West Virginia State Police.

Catlett's mother, Cynthia Catlett Young, called police after Mason's body was found, and told them she spoke with her son that day, police said.

"Her son said he had to get out of town or he was going to die," according to court documents.

In court records, West Virginia State Police theorize Catlett, 22, was jealous of Mason because Catlett's parents, who rented to Mason, didn't charge him for it. Police listed "hatred" as the motive for the crime in their records.

Police also say Catlett threatened to kill Mason a year earlier and also made threats against his father, the West Virginia State Police, Martinsburg City Police and President Bill Clinton.

In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Catlett is also charged with escape from law enforcement. Police say he attempted to flee Berkeley County Magistrate Court after his arraignment.

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