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Police testify man charged in death confessed

November 29, 2000

Police testify man charged in death confessed



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - West Virginia State Police Trooper Jeff Phillips testified in the first day of the Roger Dale Linaburg murder trial Tuesday in Berkeley County Circuit Court that Linaberg said he shot Benjamin Leo Lowrey "to protect my family and everyone else - even you."

Lowrey was shot in the chest and the stomach with a .22-caliber rifle at Linaburg's trailer off State Route 45 at the Austin Mobile Home Park. Lowrey later died at Martinsburg's City Hospital Feb. 9, 1999, the same day of the shooting.

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said, yes, Lowrey had a criminal history and had been out of prison only a couple of months, but added, "Is that justification or is this just a case of plain, cold-blooded murder?"

Linaburg's attorney Craig Manford's opening statement focused on Lowrey's past, including the fact Lowrey had spent almost 10 years in prisons in three states.

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"He was a violent individual," Manford said. "He was the type of person who was basically institutionalized. He thrived best in prison."

Manford also said in his opening statement that there was no witness to the shooting. As the trial began Tuesday before Circuit Court Judge Christopher Wilkes, Manford tried repeatedly but with no success to get the state forensic pathologist who did the autopsy on Lowrey to say he couldn't rule out suicide as a cause.

"There is no evidence that these (wounds) were self-inflicted," Pathologist James Frost repeatedly told him during cross-examination.

There was little dispute between the two sides about many of the events that occurred the day of the shooting.

Linaburg, Lowrey, Linaburg's wife, Deanna, and her two children and Lowrey's girlfriend, Betsy Jordan, spent most of the afternoon and evening of Feb. 9, 1999, in the trailer. The adults were listening to CDs and drinking beer. About half an hour before the shooting, Linaburg said he had to go pick up a friend, according to the prosecutor's opening statement. Linaburg went to his sister's house and retrieved his .22-caliber rifle, Linaburg's sister, Robin Linaburg testified Tuesday.

While Linaburg was gone, Jordan had been sitting on a couch with Lowrey and left for the bathroom, according to Jordan's statement given to the authorities the night of the shooting. As she came out, she heard a pop, Jordan said in the statement. She heard Lowrey say he had been shot and saw Linaburg with the gun, her submitted testimony revealed.

Deanna Linaburg called the police. A tape of the 911 call was played in court in which she identified herself and answered "my husband" when asked who had done the shooting.

Manford, in cross examination, noted Jordan could not be found by the state or defense to testify in the case and no one else saw the shooting. Officials don't know Jordan's whereabouts.

State troopers also testified Tuesday about a number of statements they said Linaburg made when they arrived at the trailer and later at the State Police barrack in Martinsburg.

Trooper Robert Elswick testified Linaburg told them when they arrived "I'm the shooter. Put the cuffs on me. I don't have any weapons."

Trooper Phillips testified that Linaburg told him, "You don't need me to tell you what happened. You got two birds with one stone." Phillips also testified Linaburg told him that Lowrey had "a big plan" to kill many people.

Manford will begin today's portion of the trial by cross-examining Phillips.

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