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Cousin of accused testifies in murder trial

February 21, 2002

Cousin of accused testifies in murder trial



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI
kimy@herald-mail.com


A West Virginia man serving a 20-year sentence for his plea to second-degree murder in the death of William Leonard Messersmith testified Wednesday that he and Saul Joseph Stanley did not intend to rob and kill the 76-year-old man when they went to his Clear Spring home.

Liger Grady, 19, testified Wednesday afternoon in Washington County Circuit Court during Stanley's first-degree murder trial.

Stanley, 23, is accused of fatally beating Messersmith for a money bag containing about $40,000 on Dec. 5, 2000.

In August 2001, Grady pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case. He testified Wednesday that the Washington County State's Attorney's office recommend his sentence be reduced to 10 years in exchange for his cooperation at Stanley's trial.

Under questioning by Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Gina Cirincion, Grady said he and some family members had operated a sealing and roofing business.

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Grady said he solicited customers by knocking on doors and was hired by Messersmith in November 2000 to tar his roof.

When he returned to Messersmith's home on Dec. 5 planning to seal the man's driveway, he was accompanied by his cousin, Stanley, who had told him he was broke, Grady testified.

During questioning by Stanley's defense attorney, Stephen Tully, Grady said he didn't have a contractor license and sometimes inflated his estimates.

"Are you a con man?" asked Tully.

"I can't say that," Grady replied.

Asked if he thought over-inflating job estimates was a con, Grady said it was.

"You're not a con man but you act like one?" asked Tully. Grady nodded.

Grady said he didn't target senior citizens for his home improvement work, they just happen to be home during the day more than other people.

Tully asked Grady if he had ever lied to police and Grady said he had done so in several statements before admitting to his role in Messersmith's death.

"You spent your entire life being a con man and gave five statements to police and now you want us to believe you?" Tully asked.

Grady testified that Messersmith wanted him to seal his driveway on Dec. 5, 2000, even though he had filed a complaint with the Washington County Sheriff's Department about the work Grady had done on his roof.

Grady said he and Stanley, also known as Jeff Stanley, spent time convincing Messersmith to let them seal the driveway, even though they didn't have enough sealant with them to do the job.

Messersmith eventually consented and took out his money bag to give them a $150 deposit, Grady testified.

The bag was filled with "a lot of money" and when Stanley saw it his eyes grew big, said Grady.

Stanley gave him a look that said "somehow this money has to be gotten," Grady said from the stand.

Grady said he himself wasn't impressed by the large amount of money because he received a $100,000 settlement in his father's death when he turned 18.

Grady testified that Stanley asked to use the bathroom and when he returned, hit Messersmith from behind, knocking him to the ground.

He acted as a lookout as Stanley sat on Messersmith and beat him, eventually breaking his neck and ribs and knocking out four teeth, Grady testified.

Grady said he ripped out the phone cord and they took the money bag and fled.

"I never thought the man was nowhere near dying," Grady said.

Two days later, Grady said, his wife told him Messersmith had died so he and Stanley went on the run.

While fleeing from police the two continued their sealing and roofing work as they holed up in motels in Virginia.

Stanley stared at Grady during much of his testimony and yawned when he described their visit to a motel in Virginia. Grady testified that Stanley burned a blood-splattered pair of jeans in the parking lot.

Grady laughed when Tully implied that it was he that killed Messersmith and burned his own jeans to destroy evidence.

Testimony is expected to continue today.

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