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Delay likely for W.Va. murder trial

An Inwood , W.Va., man is accused if killing his granmother by slashing her throat.

An Inwood , W.Va., man is accused if killing his granmother by slashing her throat.

August 23, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A man accused of fatally slashing his grandmother's throat two years ago will probably not face a jury Tuesday as originally planned.

Terry Eugene Walter, 27, of Inwood, W.Va., appeared before Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes Thursday morning for a pre-trial hearing. Walter's attorney, S. Andrew Arnold, asked that the first-degree murder charge be separated from 18 forgery and uttering charges Walter faces.

Wilkes approved the severance. A new trial date was not announced.

The case dates to Aug. 17, 2000, when 61-year-old Vera M. Clark was found lying face-up beside her bed, her throat slashed and a pillow covering her upper body.

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Clark lived with her son - Walter's father. When Clark's daughter-in-law found the body, she noticed a screen had been broken out of one of Clark's open bedroom windows, records show. A stolen jewelry box has never been found, said Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely.

Walter was indicted seven months after Clark was killed.

In Walter's car, police found a set of keys with blood on them, Games-Neely said. A pair of Walter's cut-off shorts also had blood on them, but not enough to confirm a DNA match, Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely said the case is "complicated," and some information will not be released until the trial. "Money is just one part of this," she said.

Police allege Walter stole a book of Clark's checks and wrote some to himself for cash.

Testimony Thursday centered on whether two statements Walter gave to state troopers regarding the checks should be admitted into court. Walter's attorney argued the jury should not hear them.

In both statements Walter admitted he took the checks and cashed them to buy crack cocaine, pay his bills and buy a rifle, among other items, said West Virginia State Trooper R.C. Copson. Around $12,000 altogether was taken.

Walter gave the statements to two troopers as he sat in his living room, Copson testified. Before the first conversation in October 2000, police read Walter his rights, Copson said. The second time, in March 2001, Walter signed a cooperative witness agreement.

Arnold implied that Walter was either incapacitated at the time the statements were taken, or coerced into giving them.

Arnold repeatedly asked Copson whether Walter was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, and Copson said no. Arnold asked whether, before questioning him, police asked Walter if he had had enough sleep, and Copson said they had.

Neither statement was videotaped or taken in writing, Copson said.

When Arnold asked if Walter and his grandmother had discussed repayment, Copson said yes. "There was an agreement between the two of them that he'd pay back every cent," Copson said.

The last suspicious check was cashed about a week before Clark's death.

Wilkes decided the statements were admissible, but said it will be up to jurors to decide whether Walter gave them voluntarily.

During the hearing Walter sat shackled at his wrists and ankles. His parents and brother had to leave the courtroom, since they may be called as witnesses at Walter's trial.

Walter will have two trials, with the first to focus on the forgery charges. Jurors who hear that case will not know that Clark was slain, or that Walter is accused of killing her, Games-Neely said.

Prosecutors previously offered a plea bargain to Walter, in which he would have pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for a recommendation of mercy, but he declined the offer, Games-Neely said. Mercy means Walter would be eligible for parole.

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