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Trial set to begin in W.Va. slaying

February 13, 2001|By BOB PARTLOW

Trial set to begin in W.Va. slaying



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The trial of Jerry Lee Hess Jr., charged with first-degree murder in the bludgeoning and beating death of a Martinsburg woman, is expected to begin today in Berkeley County, W.Va.

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Hess, 32, of Hedgesville, W.Va., is charged in the October 1999 death of Deborah Lee Grove, 46, of Martinsburg.

Grove's body was found in an orchard in south Berkeley County.

Grove, accompanied by a man, left the Fifty Yard Line Club on Van Metre Avenue in Martinsburg between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 25, 1999, according to court documents.

The two drove to an orchard off Arden-Nolville Road near Tinsman Lane, according to court documents. The two started to have sex, when the man, who was married, said he was feeling guilty, court documents alleged.

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Grove was beaten with fists and a tire iron, court documents say.

Hess went to City Hospital in Martinsburg at about 7:20 p.m. that day, where he made statements that led hospital personnel to call the West Virginia State Police, court records show.

Later that night, police found Grove's body in an orchard, court records state.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said she expects the trial to last two or three days.

She said she anticipates the defense will argue that Hess suffered from "diminished capacity."

Court documents allege that Hess told West Virginia State Police troopers that he had been drinking and smoking crack cocaine that evening.

"It's a straight-forward case," said defense attorney Craig Manford.

Manford said an argument of diminished capacity could be used in case of a conviction to allow for mercy.

If a jury recommends mercy, a convicted defendant in a first-degree murder case could be eligible for parole in 15 years instead of facing life in prison without hope of parole.

The defense will not argue that Hess is incompetent to stand trial. He was evaluated by psychiatrists who determined "he is competent to stand trial and help with his own defense," Manford said.

The trial is scheduled to begin this morning before Berkeley County Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes.

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