Three charged in W.Va. slaying

January 21, 2004|By CANDICE BOSELY

Arrest warrants have been issued charging three men with first-degree murder in the beating death of a 93-year-old man a year ago.

None of the three men had been picked up as of Tuesday evening, said Sgt. Deke Walker of the West Virginia State Police.

The warrants were issued for Kevin Richard Cornell, 41, of 121 Fairfax St. in Martinsburg; John Michael Dignazio, 30, whom court records indicate is incarcerated in Frederick County, Va.; and Christopher Mark Grady, 38, whose address was listed in court records as being unknown.


The arrest warrants were issued last week by Magistrate Harry Snow.

The victim, Delbert Rodgers, was found tied up and beaten to death inside his Airport Road home on Jan. 5, 2003.

According to a two-page criminal complaint filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court with the arrest warrants, police began investigating the three men after a credible, confidential informant, who was identified in court paperwork as "CI Star," came forward with information about the case.

After speaking with "Star," Trooper J.C. Weaver, Sgt. D.M. Olack and Trooper N.A. Harmon interviewed Dignazio several times over the next few months, police said.

Dignazio gave police a detailed statement of what he said happened at Rodgers' home and his statement matched evidence found at the scene, police alleged.

Dignazio told police that Cornell knew Rodgers because he previously had done a paving job for him. The three men planned two days before Rodgers was killed to go to Rodgers' home, tie him up and rob him, records allege.

When the three men arrived on Jan. 5, 2003, Cornell went to Rodgers' back door and told Rodgers that he still had not received a payment from a previous job, records allege.

Eventually, all three men went into Rodgers' home. Dignazio told police that he duct-taped Rodgers' feet and legs as Rodgers sat in a chair, records allege.

Grady then pulled Rodgers up from the chair and threw him to the floor, telling Rodgers that if he "didn't talk, then he would make him," court records allege.

Police allege in court papers that Dignazio told them Grady removed a cord from a phone and started to choke Rodgers. When Rodgers repeatedly refused to tell the men where he kept his money, Grady wrapped the cord around Rodgers' hand and leg while Dignazio tied him up with duct tape, records allege.

All three men alternated between searching the home to try to find money and beating Rodgers, records allege. The three men left after they did not find any money, although Grady took Rodgers' wallet, records allege.

A state medical examiner determined that Rodgers died from blunt force trauma to his chest and head. Rodgers' breastbone and several of his ribs were broken, Walker said previously.

Rodgers also had bruising around his eyes and cuts on his lips, Walker said.

A caretaker found Rodgers' body.

Conviction on a charge of first-degree murder carries a sentence of up to life in prison. West Virginia does not have the death penalty.

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