Plea deal rejected in murder case

May 11, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER


A proposed plea agreement between the Berkeley County prosecutor's office and the man charged in the July 2005 shooting of a Shepherdstown, W.Va., man collapsed abruptly in county Circuit Court Wednesday after the victim's family objected to the number of years the accused killer could serve in prison.

Judge David Sanders declined to accept a guilty plea of second-degree murder submitted by attorneys for Edward Charles Grimes, who is accused in the shooting death of Ronald L. Kidrick at a Martinsburg motel last year.

Sanders acted following objections from family members who reacted angrily after hearing Sanders say that Grimes would be eligible for parole after he would have served a fraction of a possible 12-year sentence.


"This gentleman knows he killed my son ... he knows that," Kidrick's father, Ronald W. Kidrick, stood and told Sanders after returning from a hastily called conference outside the courtroom with family members and Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Smith.

"I object to him being able to serve just four years time and then being able to get out and walk the streets just like anybody else," he said.

During a morning hearing, Kidrick, who told the court his wife also had died after his son was killed, initially agreed to the proposed resolution, but said he was pained to support it.

"I'm not happy in my heart about the outcome," Kidrick said. "It's hard for me to go through this the way it's been laid out because my son is dead."

Sanders' refusal to accept the agreement marked a sudden about-face by the court, which had proceeded with questioning Grimes to assure that he agreed to waive his right to a trial. Sanders said he had been prepared to sentence Grimes because of the presence of Kidrick's family in the courtroom, despite objections from Grimes' attorneys, who sought a later sentencing date.

Grimes, who entered the courtroom in shackles, hung his head through much of the hearing, but acknowledged under questioning that he was prepared to plead guilty to a lesser murder charge. When asked by Sanders why he was changing his plea, Grimes admitted to shooting Kidrick.

"Ronald Kidrick came to me and I shot him," Grimes said.

Sanders' rejection of the plea deal provoked a formal objection from Grimes' attorney, Homer Speaker, who said the opinions of Kidrick's family should not influence the court's decision to accept an agreement.

Sanders said the court wasn't bound to accept a plea agreement that had been worked out between the state and Grimes.

Following the hearing, Kidrick's family had harsh words for Smith, who they said failed to fully inform them about sentencing provisions under a plea agreement.

Smith acknowledged his mistake in court, and again in an interview following Wednesday's pretrial hearing, adding he assumed the family understood he might not serve a full sentence if convicted.

"I would be remiss ... if I didn't clarify that the state was at fault in this misunderstanding," Smith said. "I didn't sit down and discuss eligibility, and I should have."

Smith said it would have been unlikely that Grimes would have been released following his first time up for parole.

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