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Three indicted in 2003 W.Va. slaying

May 21, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Three men charged with beating a 93-year-old man to death and a woman charged in an unrelated case with providing heroin to a teenager who died of an overdose were indicted on felony murder charges Thursday.

John Dignazio, 30, who is currently imprisoned in Virginia; Kevin Cornell, 40, of 121 Fairfax St., Martinsburg; and Christopher Mark Grady, 38, of no fixed address, each were indicted on one count of felony murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

The three men are charged with beating 93-year-old Delbert Rodgers to death inside his Airport Road home on Jan. 5, 2003.

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Nicole L. Kees, 21, of 345 Currency Drive, Bunker Hill, was indicted on one count of felony murder, delivery of a controlled substance and two counts of forgery and two counts of uttering.

She is charged with providing heroin to Jashua Frocke, 18. An employee of the Krista Lite motel in Martinsburg found Frocke's body inside a room on Jan. 13.

Indictments are handed down by 16 grand jurors who meet behind closed doors. The next step in the process is for those indicted to be formally arraigned by a Circuit Court judge. At that time they will either plead guilty or not guilty. If a defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date is scheduled.

A charge of felony murder alleges that a person died during the commission of a felony. According to the indictments, the underlying felony in Rodgers' death was robbery, while the underlying felony in Frocke's death was delivery of heroin.

While testifying in March at Kees' preliminary hearing, Berkeley County coroner David Brining said the level of heroin found in Frocke's body is commonly associated with death.

West Virginia State Police Trooper R.T. Dyroff said he spoke to three others who were with Frocke and Kees the night before Frocke's body was found.

All admitted to using heroin and Kees told Dyroff that she purchased heroin that night and gave half to Frocke, Dyroff testified in a preliminary hearing in March.

Kees was being held in Eastern Regional Jail without bail.

West Virginia State Police Trooper J.C. Weaver, one of the officers investing the case involving Rodgers, has said the three men planned to rob Rodgers.

During a preliminary hearing earlier this month for Cornell, a taped statement given by Dignazio was played in Magistrate Court. In the statement, Dignazio said Grady and Cornell had talked about tying up and robbing Rodgers. He said on the tape that Cornell previously had done some work for Rodgers and believed he had $5,000 to $6,000 in his home.

A state medical examiner determined that Rodgers died of blunt force trauma to his head and chest.

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