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Jury to see photo of victim in murder trial, judge rules

Judge says at least one photo of the victim will be allowed in the trial of a W.Va. man accused of killing his grandmother.

Judge says at least one photo of the victim will be allowed in the trial of a W.Va. man accused of killing his grandmother.

January 24, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Several issues arose during the Thursday afternoon pre-trial hearing for a man accused of fatally slashing his grandmother's throat, including whether a photograph of the victim's body should be shown to jurors.

Terry Eugene Walter, 27, of Inwood, W.Va., faces charges of murder and forgery and uttering. Police allege that Walter killed his grandmother after stealing and forging some of her checks, taking around $12,000 from her bank account.

Many of the issues discussed during the pre-trial hearing were not resolved. At the request of Walter's defense attorneys, Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes scheduled a follow-up hearing for next Wednesday.

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One of Walter's attorneys, Eric Black, was appointed to the case about an hour before Thursday's hearing. He will assist attorney Andrew Arnold.

Wilkes denied a defense motion to postpone the trial, which is to begin Feb. 4.

The case is nearly 21/2 years old, stemming from the Aug. 17, 2000, murder of Vera M. Clark, 61.

Clark's body was found face-up on the floor beside her bed, her throat slashed and her upper body covered by a pillow. A jewelry box missing from her room has never been recovered, said Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely.

Authorities do not know exactly what kind of weapon was used.

Arnold asked that any photos of the victim that might prejudice the jury not be entered into evidence. When Games-Neely handed him the photos she intends to use, Walter turned his head away.

Arnold asked Wilkes that one photo, which showed Clark's body as it was found, be kept from the jury. Wilkes looked at the photo and deemed it admissible. He said it is not particularly "gruesome," since Clark's upper body and throat were covered by the pillow.

None of the other photographs show Clark's body, Games-Neely said.

Arnold also asked for additional time to review three statements Walter gave to police, including one that deals with his whereabouts in the hours before Clark was killed.

Walter told investigators he was at a local bar, Games-Neely said. Police believe Clark was killed between 1 and 4 a.m.

On a separate matter, Games-Neely agreed with Arnold that some things should be withheld from the trial, including a pair of Walter's shorts. Although they appeared to have blood on them, DNA tests were inconclusive, she said.

Also excluded was the fact that police found a gun in Walter's home. It's irrelevant because Clark was not shot, Games-Neely said.

Arnold asked that the trial be postponed, in part because some evidence was still being tested at Orchid Cellmark laboratory in Germantown, Md.

Forensic evidence in the case includes Walter's keys, which the West Virginia State Police laboratory found had blood on them, according to Games-Neely.

Should new tests turn up results that could affect Walter, Wilkes said the matter of postponing the trial could be reconsidered.

Before the hearing ended, Games-Neely told Wilkes that Walter rejected a plea bargain offered by prosecutors.

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