YOU ARE HERE: HeraldMail HomeCollectionsWva

Bail denied for W.Va. charged in girlfriend's slaying

June 08, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Bail was denied Monday for a man charged in February with fatally slashing his girlfriend's throat, despite a promise he made to attend all upcoming court hearings.

Several people in the audience applauded after Circuit Judge Thomas Steptoe announced he was going to "respectfully deny" the request for bail for Vernon H. Dunlap Sr.

Dunlap, 45, of Martinsburg, W.Va., is charged with murder in connection with the death of Jennifer L. Dodson, 20. Dodson was found dead in her apartment at 308 New Oak Tree Court, which is in the Willow Spring Farm apartment complex outside Charles Town.


Police allege Dunlap killed Dodson because she wanted to end their relationship. Her body was found on Feb. 19, and police have said she was killed that morning or the night before.

During the bail hearing, Sgt. S.K. Harmon, with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, said Dodson had an eight-inch cut to her throat and that her jugular vein had been severed on the left side of her neck.

Dunlap's attorney, James Kratovil, called several witnesses to the stand to testify about Dunlap's character, including Dunlap, his two brothers and family friends.

Margaret Butts said she has known Dunlap all his life. When asked of Dunlap's reputation, she replied: "Fantastic. He's got a big heart and he's there for everybody."

During testimony that lasted five minutes, Dunlap said if he is released he would live with one of his brothers, seek work, help his attorney and care for his father. He said he would attend all court hearings.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Mike Thompson began his cross-examination by asking Dunlap how many times he stabbed his ex-wife in March 1994.

Dunlap replied that he was not sure.

Dunlap's ex-wife, Betty Yates, testified she was stabbed five times in the neck, once in the arm and once in the chest. Her oldest daughter tied a shirt around her neck to stop the bleeding before she made it to Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Department. She said she was then flown to a trauma center for medical treatment.

Yates also testified that Dunlap was released on bond after charges were filed in the stabbing. She said he followed her daily and called her home 30 to 40 times a day.

Dunlap later pleaded guilty to one count of malicious wounding and served 21/2 years in prison.

Kratovil said Dunlap only seems to become violent toward women with whom he is having a relationship. He proposed that, should bail be granted, a condition of it be that Dunlap not be allowed to form any romantic or quasi-romantic relationships.

Steptoe said his job was to determine whether Dunlap will appear for court and whether releasing him would pose a threat to society or the administration of justice.

Although witnesses indicated Dunlap has appeared for court in the past while on bond, he has never had to appear for a trial that could end with him spending the rest of his life behind bars, Steptoe said.

Steptoe said Yates' testimony was compelling, particularly with regard to the stalking that happened while Dunlap was free on bond.

"I cannot put the witnesses in this case at that kind of risk," Steptoe said.

Steptoe's ruling means Dunlap will continue to be held in Eastern Regional Jail without bail.

Dunlap's case was forwarded to Circuit Court after a magistrate found probable cause during a March preliminary hearing. Thompson said the case will be presented to grand jurors later this year for possible indictment. If grand jurors return an indictment, a trial will be scheduled.

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

The Herald-Mail Articles