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Charge now felony murder in teen's death

First-degree murder dropped

First-degree murder dropped

October 18, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

The man charged in the death of a 14-year-old girl was arraigned Monday on a charge of felony murder, while a charge of first-degree murder filed against him last week was dismissed.

Roger Dwayne Smith, 24, of Martinsburg, faces a sentence of up to life in prison without parole if he is found guilty of the felony murder charge. A charge of felony murder means a person died during the commission of a felony, which in this case was burglary, according to court records.

The difference between the two charges is intent, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said.

"As we know it (the evidence) today, the intent was to burglarize the home. The intent was not to kill her," Games-Neely said.

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Games-Neely said the case remains under investigation and that the evidence could later point to a different conclusion.

Miana Stewart, a popular ninth-grader at Musselman High School, was found dead Oct. 13 in the basement of her Gerrardstown, W.Va., home. She had been bound at her hands, feet, legs and throat and was tied to a weightlifting bench, according to court records.

Her mother, Mary Stewart, was beaten with a baseball bat and also bound and taken to the basement but was able to free herself and run to a neighbor's house for help, according to police.

When deputies with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department arrived, they spotted a man fleeing from the back of the Stewarts' home at 195 Reunion Corner Road, police said.

The man had blood on his clothes and items that belonged to the victims were in his possession, police have said.

Along with felony murder, Smith faces charges of burglary and malicious wounding.

He is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday, when a magistrate could determine whether enough probable cause exists to forward the case to Circuit Court for a possible grand jury indictment and trial.

Police said Smith agreed to speak to them, saying he went to the Stewarts' home to steal a dirt bike. He said he knocked but walked inside through the unlocked front door after nobody answered, according to police.

About a half-hour later, Stewart got off her school bus and surprised Smith, who was not expecting anyone to arrive, police said.

In 2000, Smith was convicted in Virginia of abduction and attempted rape, and served about three years in prison. He was required to register as a sex offender for life, and had been charged in Berkeley County three times with failure to properly register his current address, according to court records.

Games-Neely said the charges in Virginia involved a child, but she did not have any further information.

Smith was being held in Eastern Regional Jail without bail.

Miana Stewart, the only child of Randy and Mary Stewart, is remembered as a quiet, friendly girl who loved animals and was an honor student. She had been involved in her middle school's Bible Club and basketball team, along with other organizations.

Kristy Hogbin, Miana's eighth-grade basketball coach last year, said Miana was one of the nicest people she had ever met.

"She was just a wonderful kid. She had a great attitude. Always had a smile for you. She truly was a great kid," Hogbin said.

Funeral services for Miana Stewart are scheduled for 1 p.m. today at South Berkeley Chapel in Inwood, W.Va.

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