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Birdsall map reveals sites near bins

August 14, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As investigators searched Clyde Birdsall's house in Inwood, W.Va., they found a map with various locations marked, including a circle around the shopping center where Erika Birdsall's body was found in a folded up sofa bed next to a garbage bin, prosecution witnesses testified Thursday.

Berkeley County Sheriff's Capt. Richard Steerman said he went to the other locations on the map marked with an "X." The locations all had garbage bins behind them or beside them, said Steerman, who assisted in the investigation as a member of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.

Steerman took photos of the garbage bins at each location, including the one behind the H-Mart where Erika Birdsall's nude body was found on March 7, 1997, with 13 stab wounds in the abdomen and chest.

Clyde Birdsall is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, a woman confined to a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis. The trial will continue this morning.

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Investigators are mistaken in their belief that Clyde Birdsall used the map to determine where to dump a sofa with his wife's body in it, contended defense attorney Paul Kramer.

Instead, Clyde Birdsall used the map to find different businesses, such as Lowe's and Weis supermarket and the H-Mart off Winchester Avenue, Kramer argued.

"You took a picture of the isolated Dumpster in the back. You didn't take a picture of the busy, busy shopping center out in front," Kramer said.

When the defense began calling witnesses in the afternoon, Kramer attempted to cast the blame for the killing on the Birdsalls' neighbor, Glen Hess, 37, of Inwood.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely objected.

"Mr. Hess is not on trial here," Games-Neely said.

"I suggest he is," Kramer said.

Circuit Judge Thomas Steptoe allowed Kramer's line of inquiry.

Hess was indicted in May on two counts of first-degree arson after fires were set at the Birdsalls' home on May 31, 1997, and June 1, 1997.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Jerome Swain testified that when interviewed, Hess admitted to starting the two fires and said he wrote the note left on the garage door, in which he admitted to killing Erika Birdsall.

"He said he wrote the note as a prank," Swain said.

Earlier, police investigators testified they questioned Hess, but ruled him out as a suspect.

Games-Neely said Hess' mental capacity is an issue in the arson case.

Kramer said he believes the fires were set to destroy possible evidence from the slaying.

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