W.Va. prosecutor defends motion to take house

April 15, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Defending his attempt to seize the house of a woman whose son was fatally shot by police, Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Henline said Thursday that he is simply following the law.

On Wednesday, Henline filed two motions to seize the house at 636 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg, that Frances Yurish used as surety to ensure her son, Michael Yurish, 51, was released from jail on $50,000 bail.

Michael Yurish was released from jail in February. At 2:48 a.m. Monday, two West Virginia State Police troopers killed Yurish after he entered the home of his estranged wife, Joy Yurish, and was moving toward her with a butcher knife, police said.


Police say Michael Yurish threatened to kill his wife that night and was free on bail on a charge of attempted murder. That charge stemmed from an attack on his wife in November 2004, when he tried to strangle her with an extension cord, police have said.

One of the conditions of Michael Yurish's release was that he have no contact with his wife, a condition that Henline said obviously was violated.

Henline said he stands behind his motions.

"It's sad that she lost her son, but we have to draw the line somewhere," Henline said, adding that this is not the first time he has attempted to seize a house. "It isn't selective prosecution."

For years, bail bond officials have been putting up property or freeing people through other means who then don't abide by the conditions of their release.

"If the state does nothing, what are the repercussions?" Henline said. "It's time for these people to actually wake up and smell the coffee."

Since he has started filing similar motions against others, bail bond officials are looking more closely at those they bond out, Henline said.

"I've put my foot down with the bonding companies, including people who put their property up," he said.

Law states that those who post property on behalf of someone are agreeing to the same terms and conditions as the person arrested. If the person arrested violates a condition of bond - failing to show up for court, for example - the person who signed the bail bond agreement is held responsible.

"I'm doing my job. The law is the law," Henline said.

Henline took exception to a comment made by Martinsburg attorney Harley O. Wagner, who represented Michael Yurish. Wagner called Henline's motions "a shameful, heartless act."

Henline said he is doing his job.

"Is it shameful and heartless because the law is the law?" he said. "We can't ignore it. We can't say, 'Oh, he died and nothing should happen.'"

On May 11, Magistrate Joan Bragg will hear arguments from Henline and a representative of the Yurish family. If Bragg agrees that the house should be forfeited, the matter will be forwarded to a Circuit Court judge.

If the house is auctioned, $50,000 would be forwarded to the state and any additional proceeds would go to the Yurish family.

Henline said he wants to send a message to others who are considering posting bond for someone.

"We're making a point here," he said.

He also wanted to make one other point.

"Everyone has to remember who the real victim in the case is, and that's Joy Yurish," he said. "Joy Yurish almost lost her life that night, and people seem to forget that."

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