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Grand jury indicts W.Va. man on 50 sex abuse counts

May 19, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Berkeley County grand jury handed up a 50-count indictment Wednesday against a 60-year-old Berkeley County man who allegedly sexually abused two 7-year-old girls during several incidents while they were in his care.

Russell Charles Wesley of Martinsburg was charged in March with sexual abuse after acknowledging to police that he participated in 12 to 15 sexual encounters with the girls that started after they began spending time at his house beginning in August 2005, according to court records.

Wesley, who told police the young girls would play in their underwear during visits to his house, was indicted on 24 counts of sexual abuse, two counts of sexual assault and 24 counts of sexual abuse by a custodian.

More than 90 indictments were approved by the grand jury during three days of deliberations this week, including true bills being brought against four people who allegedly concocted a kidnapping plot in February as part of an attempt to extort money from the mother of one of them.

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Erica J. Bennett, 23, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.; Maurice Darnell Powell, 51, of Martinsburg; Sydney Errol Smith, Jr., 39, of Reisterstown, Md.; and 50-year-old Barry L. Allen, also of Martinsburg, each were indicted on one felony count of conspiracy to commit extortion for their alleged effort to extort $20,000.

The group was arrested in February after officers with the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force Police received a call from Bennett's mother, who said her daughter was being held against her will by a group of men after incurring a debt because of a drug habit. The officers later monitored a monetary transaction between Bennett's mother and the alleged fake kidnappers, who later admitted to a role in the plot, police said.

Smith, who later allegedly led a West Virginia State Trooper on a high-speed chase in southern Berkeley County, also was indicted on misdemeanor traffic violations, including fleeing from police in a vehicle and on foot, speeding, failure to stop at a red light, improper passing and reckless driving. He also was charged with failure to use his turn signal and leaving the scene of an accident.

Also indicted this week was a Martinsburg couple who allegedley robbed a woman in February as she was loading groceries into her car in a parking lot outside a Wal-Mart in Martinsburg.

Kana H. Kennedy, 20, was indicted on one count each of robbery, conspiracy and petit larceny and 24-year-old Brian Grant was charged with one count of robbery and conspiracy after allegedley robbing a woman, who leaped into their car to retrieve her purse and wallet, which contained $300, according to police records. Witnesses at the scene say they observed the car being driven around the outer loop of the Martinsburg Mall with a woman hanging out of the passenger side door, her feet dragging on the ground.

Kennedy also was indicted on three counts each of forgery and uttering. Grant also was indicted on one count of uttering.

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