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Longtime W.Va. trooper honored for service

February 14, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Friends of longtime West Virginia State Police officer Fred Wagoner took turns Sunday night recalling old times with their colleague, who will retire this week after 25 years with the police force.

Wagoner was one of at least 11 police, fire, corrections, military and emergency personnel who were honored at the annual Law and Safety Day at Elks Lodge 778 in Martinsburg.

Wagoner was described during the ceremony as one of the best investigators in the area, tackling dozens of murder cases and major drug trafficking operations.

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Wagoner investigated 20 to 30 homicides in the Eastern Panhandle, many of which were drug-related. Among the cases was a 20-year-old woman who was taken to a secluded area of Berkeley County in 1999 and beaten to death with an ax handle.

Prosecutors alleged the woman was killed because her assailants believed she was a police informant.

"You won't be replaced," Martinsburg Police Department Detective George Swartwood told Wagoner during the ceremony.

The tough moments were recalled along with the amusing.

Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith recalled one time early in his career when Wagoner went with him to a quarry in Inwood, W.Va., to look for a stolen car.

Smith drove, and the sheriff said he recalled driving along the edge of the steep quarry that night. Smith's cruiser broke down and while the two waited for a wrecker, a strange "screaming noise" came from the woods, Smith said.

The screaming sound came closer to the car, and Smith recalled it as the time when two grown men with guns "rolled up the windows and locked the doors."

Smith did not reveal who or what was doing the screaming.

Wagoner, who will retire Wednesday, was presented with a shadow box that contains his badges, pins and a patch.

Wagoner, 46, of Martinsburg, once ran the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force and was an undercover state police officer for 14 years. Among his many experiences were using informants to make controlled drug buys.

Wagoner is a first lieutenant who oversees a professional standards unit at the state police office in Jefferson County.

When asked after the ceremony whether there was anything that ever surprised him about the drug cases and murders he investigated, Wagoner said he was "disappointed in some folks. It's always hard to believe someone could do that," Wagoner said.

Others honored included:

· The entire department at the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.

· Senior state police trooper Todd Lind of the Berkeley County detachment, who was recognized for his large number of arrests of suspected drunken drivers and his work in major crimes.

· Trooper C.D. Kuhn of the Charles Town, W.Va., detachment, who was recognized for his criminal investigations into burglary cases and leading the department in activity.

· State police Cpl. Max Kingery of the Berkeley Springs detachment, who was recognized for his investigations, including a recent drug distribution case which extended to Mexico.

· Cpl. W.A. Johnson of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, who was recognized for his work in several areas, including expertise in terrorist surveillance.

· Debbie Proctor, municipal court clerk for the City of Martinsburg, who juggles many tasks including preparations of subpoenas.

· Danny Thomas and Jason Hoover, two Martinsburg Fire Department firefighters who have purchased rescue equipment and received training as part of a homeland security effort.

· Lt. Ben Shreve, who was recognized for his commitment to operations at the Eastern Regional Jail.

· William T. Blednick Jr., a Veterans Affairs Police Service officer who was credited with helping Martinsburg police track evidence in a throat-slashing incident in Martinsburg recently.

· Technical Sgt. John R. Phillips of the 167th Airlift Wing, who was recognized for his combat arms training and other work.

· Gregory Noll, who was recognized for his hazardous materials expertise with the Berkeley County Office of Emergency Services.

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