Man charged in W.Va. murder waives right to hearing

April 01, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - One of the three men charged in connection with the beating death of a 93-year-old man waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday while a second man's hearing was postponed to May.

The third man remains in custody in Virginia on unrelated charges.

Kevin Richard Cornell, 41, of 121 Fairfax St., Martinsburg; Christopher Mark Grady, 38, of an unknown address; and John Michael Dignazio, 30, address unknown, each faces one count of murder.

The men are charged in connection with the Jan. 5, 2003, killing of Delbert Rodgers. A caretaker found Rodgers tied up and beaten to death inside his Airport Road home.


In Berkeley County Magistrate Court on Wednesday, Grady waived his right to a preliminary hearing while Cornell's attorney asked that his client's hearing be postponed.

According to records filed in court, officers with West Virginia State Police began investigating the three men after a credible confidential informant came forward with information.

After speaking with the informant, Troopers J.C. Weaver and N.A. Harmon, along with Sgt. D.M. Olack, interviewed Dignazio several times.

Dignazio gave police a detailed statement about what happened at Rodgers' home. His statement matched evidence found at the scene, police said.

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

Dignazio told police he duct-taped Rodgers' feet and legs as Rodgers sat in a chair, records allege.

Dignazio told police 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," records allege.

According to Dignazio, 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, court records allege.

All three men alternated between searching the home to try to find money and beating the elderly man, records allege. The three men left after they did not find any money, records state.

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

In West Virginia, a preliminary hearing is the first court hearing for individuals charged with a felony. Because Grady waived his right to the hearing, Magistrate Kristy Greer forwarded his case to Circuit Court for possible grand jury indictment.

Cornell and Grady are being held without bail in Eastern Regional Jail.

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