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Defendant's words focus of testimony

April 12, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A West Virginia trooper testified at a preliminary hearing Wednesday that after Benjamin Leo Lowrey was fatally shot in February, Roger Dale Linaburg told police, "I shot (him). I hope he dies."

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Linaburg, 31, is charged with one count of murder in the Feb. 9 death of Lowrey, who was shot once in the chest and once in the side of the abdomen with a .22-caliber rifle.

During the hearing in Berkeley County Court, Senior Trooper R.C. Copson also testified that when police responded to Linaburg's trailer at Austin Mobile Home Park in Martinsburg for a reported shooting, Linaburg was standing on his porch and said, "I'm the shooter. Go ahead and put the cuffs on me."

A rifle was on a couch inside, Copson said.

Senior Trooper J.L. Phillips testified that there were no signs of a struggle.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Berkeley County Magistrate Sandra Miller ruled that there was probable cause for the prosecution to proceed with its case.

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In his closing argument, Craig Manford, Linaburg's attorney, said the prosecution failed to establish a cause of death.

Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Jones countered that for a preliminary hearing only probable cause is needed to proceed with the case. "We don't need an expert to say the man is dead," Jones said.

The case will be presented to a grand jury, although not necessarily the next one, which will convene in May, according to Jones. Another grand jury is scheduled for October.

Phillips testified that when he arrived at the site at about 10 p.m., Lowrey, 32, was lying on his back, unconscious, in the living room of Linaburg's trailer, and Linaburg was already in custody.

Police alleged that Linaburg earlier had driven about seven miles to his sister's residence at Butts Mobile Home Park to get a rifle, then took it back to his home and shot Lowrey.

Phillips said Linaburg several times made innuendoes about the crime. He testified that Linaburg's statements included: "You don't need me to tell you what happened. You got two birds with one stone," and, "This guy had a master plan to go on a killing spree."

The trooper testified that when Linaburg was in custody at the police station, he was "cooperative, very talkative ... not on an emotional roller coaster."

Phillips said Linaburg's wife, Deanna, the couple's two children and a woman named Betsy Jane Jordan, who accompanied Lowrey, were also at the trailer at the time of the shooting.

"I'm not taking the stand," Deanna Linaburg announced as the hearing was beginning, when she was mentioned as a possible prosecution witness.

Authorities were unable to locate Jordan to serve her with a subpoena, according to court records.

Linaburg, who is being held in the Eastern Regional Jail, appeared in court in orange jail clothing.

About nine people sitting in the back of the room during the hearing gathered in the hallway afterward, watching as Linaburg was escorted to a van outside.

One of the men had stopped to hug Linaburg while he was still seated after the hearing.

Outside the court building, the man said he was Linaburg's brother but did not want to comment.

As he was led into the van taking him back to jail, Linaburg declined to be interviewed. "I don't want to say anything right now. Thank you," he said as he climbed in.

The only other two spectators in the courtroom were Gloria VanMetre and Jenny Haines, who said they were Lowrey's sister and brother.

"It was the first time we found out how he died," VanMetre said, referring to details that were part of the court testimony.

She said they knew only that Lowrey had been shot and Linaburg had been charged with murder.

They described the two men as acquaintances.

Haines said it was difficult sitting in the cramped audience section with Linaburg supporters.

VanMetre said she hadn't seen Lowrey, who was released from prison last year, in a long time but kept in touch with him through letters.

"He was working," Haines said. "He was trying."

When Miller arraigned Linaburg in February, she ordered him held without bail. Later that month, he filed a motion for a bond hearing in Circuit Court.

It was unclear Wednesday whether a hearing date has been set. There was no record of a scheduled hearing or of his motion in Circuit Court, and Jones said he wasn't familiar with the motion.

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