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Probable cause found for murder trial

April 12, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Clutching a Bible in his hands and wearing shackles on his legs and wrists, a 17-year-old Martinsburg youth was led back to a juvenile detention center Monday after a Berkeley County magistrate decided there was enough probable cause to try him for murder.

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The teenager is charged with murder in last week's shooting death of a 22-year-old Martinsburg man outside Berkeley Garden Apartments.

Kevin Smith, 22, died in a Virginia hospital last Thursday, the day after he was shot twice in the head with a .22-caliber pistol.

Officials are withholding the name of the teen because of his age.

The case against him will now be sent to Berkeley County Circuit Court where Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said she likely will ask the court to have him tried as an adult.

He could face up to life in prison if he is tried as an adult and found guilty, said Games-Neely.

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Otherwise, she said, the teenager would face a maximum of two years of detention if tried and found responsible for the murder under juvenile status.

"It's a different standard in juvenile court," said Games-Neely.

If a Berkeley County Circuit judge decides the teenager should be tried as an adult, the case would be sent to the Berkeley County grand jury, said Games-Neely.

A hearing in Circuit Court should be held within the next 30 days, she said.

Investigators are trying to determine a motive for Smith's shooting and are still looking for the .22-caliber handgun believed to have fired the shots that killed Smith.

"We don't want a child to find it. Anyone who finds the gun should call police immediately," said Games-Neely.

Police have identified several people believed to have witnessed the shooting, but there is no indication criminal charges will be filed against anyone else, she said.

Noting the reputation for violence at the apartment complex where Smith was shot, Games-Neely said some witnesses are reluctant to talk with police.

"Right now, it's been difficult to get witnesses who will cooperate. That makes prosecution very difficult," she said.

The youth remains in the Eastern Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

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