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Cops say Yurish told to drop knife

April 13, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - About nine minutes passed between the time two West Virginia State Police troopers were dispatched to Joy Yurish's Martinsburg home and the time they shot her knife-wielding estranged husband dead, West Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Lisa Lambert said Tuesday.

Michael Bosworth Yurish, 51, was shot at 2:48 a.m. Monday in the living room of Joy Yurish's 92 Hedrick Avenue home by two unnamed troopers who witnessed Michael Yurish "going towards her with the knife to stab her with the knife," said Lambert, of the Charles Town, W.Va., barrack.

She said the troopers twice asked Yurish to put down the butcher knife with which he was threatening his estranged wife, who was within five to 10 feet of Michael Yurish when he was shot. Berkeley County Medical Examiner David Brining pronounced Yurish dead at the scene. Brining said he arrived at the home shortly after paramedics.

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Police are not releasing how many times Yurish was shot until the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner completes its autopsy, Lambert said.

Troopers used .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handguns, which hold eight rounds per clip, in the shooting, Lambert said. She said she didn't know if they reloaded.

"All of the bullet casings were in the living room," she said.

Lambert said some bullet fragments were obtained, which might indicate a bullet entered Yurish's body and exited it. She said she didn't know if any bullets fired missed Michael Yurish.

"We have to confirm ballistics and cross-reference with the autopsy to confirm everything that's being said," she said.

The troopers who shot Yurish - a 29-year-old trooper with more than five years of experience and a 31-year-old trooper with more than two years at the department - have been placed on administrative leave with pay while West Virginia State Police Sgt. Dave Boober investigates the shooting, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely has said.

Games-Neely said Tuesday that she will review the shooting investigation to determine if the troopers were justified in their actions.

West Virginia State Police Lt. Timothy Bradley is conducting the internal affairs investigation related to the shooting, Lambert said. Bradley could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Lambert said Joy Yurish hit a domestic violence alarm issued to her from the Shenandoah Women's Center which triggered a call to authorities. A Berkeley County 911 dispatcher was then able to contact Joy Yurish and talk to her on the phone, Lambert said. She wasn't sure if Joy Yurish was still on the phone with the dispatcher when her estranged husband was shot.

"It didn't trigger anything with him that she was on the line with authorities," Lambert said, noting that Joy Yurish "did really well with composure and doing the right thing."

Lambert said Joy Yurish answered the dispatcher's questions with yes and no answers and was able to guide the troopers, who staged down the road, to go to the back door, which Michael Yurish had broken into to gain entrance into the house.

"A lot of credit needs to go to the Berkeley County 911 Center," Lambert said.

The house has a split foyer and the front entrance would have opened into the living room where Joy Yurish was sitting on the couch, Lambert said.

"The majority of the time he was sitting beside her with a knife," Lambert said. At other times, Michael Yurish would pace "and come back toward her," Lambert said.

When the troopers arrived at the back door, they had a clear view of Michael Yurish through the dining room into the living room, Lambert said.

"They could see the victim on the couch and on the phone," she said. "He was threatening her constantly and saying she was going to die that day."

Lambert said the troopers who responded were familiar with the estranged couple's domestic history.

Joy Yurish had taken out a Family Protection Act order against her husband on Dec. 1, 2004. As part of the order, which expires May 16, Michael Yurish was not allowed to have any contact with his wife and was not to possess any weapons, according to court records.

The protection order was obtained about two weeks after police allege Yurish tried to strangle his wife on Nov. 17, 2004, with an extension cord, threatened to stab her and told her she would leave her house in a body bag, records state.

West Virginia State Police Cpl. R.T. Dyroff, who investigated that case, said Joy Yurish had filed for divorce about two weeks earlier but had delayed telling her husband because she was afraid of his response.

Yurish originally was charged with domestic battery, but the charge was upgraded to attempted murder, according to records.

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