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Jury finds Stanley guilty

February 25, 2002|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

A West Virginia man who faces life in prison for fatally beating William Leonard Messersmith during a robbery Dec. 5, 2000, will find out next month if he will receive the possibility of parole.

After deliberating for about three hours Thursday and 90 minutes Friday morning, a Washington County Circuit Court jury found Saul Joseph Stanley guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, false imprisonment, felony murder, first-degree assault, robbery and theft more than $500.

Stanley, who showed no reaction when the verdict was read, will serve a life sentence. Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III will decide on March 25, whether Stanley would receive the possibility of parole.

Following the verdict Boone requested a pre-sentencing report on Stanley which he will weigh in making his decision.

Defense attorney Stephen Tully said Stanley, who is 23 or 24, plans to appeal based on discovery and postponement issues.

Tully said he's "relatively comfortable" the verdict will be overturned.

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Stanley's mother sobbed while the verdict was announced. Other family members rushed from the courtroom.

Messersmith's daughter, Cindy Messersmith, cried and held hands with other family members while the verdict was read.

"It's wonderful. I'm overwhelmed; it's beyond my imagination. We have angels watching us," she said outside the courthouse.

About 15 Hagerstown City Police officers, including Police Chief Arthur Smith, aided Washington County Sheriff's deputies working in the courthouse today. The officers were called because of escalating tension among the Stanley and Messersmith families.

Some members of each family were not permitted to return to the courthouse after a shouting match earlier in the week that started inside the building and continued outside.

Following the verdict, police escorted family members and jurors out of the courtroom to their cars.

Washington County State's Attorney Ken Long and his co-counsel, Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion, concluded their case Thursday.

Stanley did not take the stand, and Tully didn't call any witnesses.

In her closing argument, Cirincion said Stanley should be convicted of first-degree murder because of the length and ferocity of the beating that killed Messersmith.

Cirincion went through a timeline of events starting with the first meeting of Stanley's cousin, Liger Grady, with Messersmith.

Grady, who operated a home improvement business, previously had done work for Messersmith and returned to his home Dec. 5, 2000, to tar his driveway, she said. Stanley accompanied Grady, who stood by as Stanley beat Messersmith, Cirincion argued.

The men took Messersmith's money and divided it, she said.

Last August, Grady pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case. His 20-year sentence was reduced to 10 years in exchange for his testimony.

Tully, in his closing argument, told the jury the prosecution's case was based on a known liar's testimony. Grady made his living by scamming the elderly into paying for overpriced, poorly performed home improvement work, Tully said, and his testimony was the only direct evidence linking Stanley to the murder scene.

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