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Cooperation leads to lighter sentence

November 05, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A Martinsburg, W.Va., man convicted in connection with the death of a Clear Spring-area man was in Washington County Circuit Court Tuesday to finalize a deal he made with prosecutors two years ago to reduce his time in prison.

Liger Albert Grady, 21, pleaded guilty in August 2001 to one count of second-degree murder in the death of William Leonard Messersmith, 76.

In February 2002, Saul Joseph "Jeff" Stanley was convicted of first-degree murder, and later sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

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Prosecutors said that Stanley, 22 at the time of the murder, and Grady, then 18, were going to do some work for Messersmith on Dec. 5, 2000. But instead, Stanley beat Messersmith to death in his home as Grady acted as a lookout, and the two split $40,000 in cash stolen from the house.

As part of the plea agreement, Grady promised prosecutors he would help convict Stanley, who is his cousin. If Grady testified truthfully, prosecutors said, they would later recommend a reduced sentence.

On Tuesday, Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright suspended 10 years of Grady's 20-year sentence.

Wright also ordered Grady to serve five years of probation after his release, but warned Grady to obey all laws or he would reimpose the remaining 10 years.

When Grady was escorted into the courtroom, he shot glances at two family members sitting in the bench behind him. On the other side of the courtroom, Messersmith's daughters sat quietly during the proceeding.

Jack Blomquist, Grady's lawyer, told Wright that Grady had helped tremendously in Stanley's prosecution. "Mr. Stanley would not have come to justice," he said.

Blomquist said that through Grady's information, a pickup truck that Stanley had bought with the stolen money was located. He said Grady helped with other pieces of evidence, but he did not elaborate Tuesday.

"They fulfilled their part of the bargain," Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long said during the hearing, and recommended the reduced sentence.

Grady expressed remorse to Messersmith's family.

Grady said his family life had been difficult. He said he was 18 at the time of the crime, and had been married at age 16.

"I was under a whole lot of pressure at the time. I was just trying to fit in with the crowd," he said. Grady said he'd weaned himself off drugs, and taken job training while in prison.

"I feel that I'm paying for what I've done," he said.

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