Lawyers for man accused in slaying want trial moved

August 29, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The attorneys for a man indicted in the murder of a 14-year-old Gerrardstown, W.Va., girl in October 2005 have asked the presiding Berkeley County Circuit Court judge to move the trial to another venue.

A hearing to consider the motion by attorneys Eric Black and Christopher Prezioso on behalf of Roger Dwayne Smith will be Sept. 18, less than a month before Smith's scheduled trial Oct. 10.

Smith, 25, was indicted in February on one count of felony murder in the Oct. 13, 2005, death of Miana Stewart. She was found bound, gagged and tied to a weightlifting bench in the basement of her home. Smith also faces charges of attempted murder and malicious wounding for allegedly attacking Miana's mother with a baseball bat when she arrived home later that day.

Counts of failure to register as a sex offender, daytime burglary, first-degree robbery, possession of a stolen vehicle and fleeing from a police officer also are pending.


Though Stewart's death attracted a lot of media attention, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said she will argue against moving the trial to another location and is confident there are prospective jurors who will not be tainted by the attention the girl's death received.

"We think we can seat a jury," Games-Neely said Monday afternoon following a brief hearing before Judge David H. Sanders.

"It amazes me how few people know what's going on in the community," Games-Neely later added.

According to records, Smith was seen by police running from the back of the Stewarts' home when they arrived after being dispatched to a call for help after Miana's mother, Mary, freed herself and sought help at a neighbor's house.

Smith had blood on his clothes and carried items that belonged to the Stewart family, police said.

Smith was convicted in Virginia of abduction and attempted rape in a case involving a child, and was charged in Berkeley County with failure to register as a sex offender.

Aside from the change of venue motion, Smith's attorneys told Sanders they also sought an independent examination of forensic evidence. They were not anticipating that those tests would delay the proceedings.

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