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Hearing continued for man accused in slaying at bar

December 09, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A preliminary hearing Friday for a Harpers Ferry, W.Va., man charged in last weekend's shooting death of a bartender at the Cliffside Bar and Grill was continued because the man's attorney said there are some "medical activities" in the case.

Public defender Jim Kent asked Magistrate Mary Paul Rissler that the preliminary hearing for James Robert Jones be continued for several weeks. No date was agreed on by midafternoon.

Kent declined to elaborate on his comment after the hearing.

"I think when all is said and done, I don't think my client will be convicted on the charges," Kent said after the hearing in Jefferson County Magistrate Court.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gina Groh declined to comment, saying she did not want to generate any publicity that might later hurt the case.

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Jones, 25, of 180 Campground Road, is charged with murder, three counts of wanton endangerment, possession of a firearm by a felon and two counts of malicious wounding following last Saturday's shooting at the Cliffside Bar and Grill along U.S. 340 near Harpers Ferry, where three people were shot, according to police and court records.

The possession of a firearm by a felon charge stems from a conviction in March 2000 in Maryland for robbery, West Virginia State Police Sgt. C.C. Morton said Friday.

Michael Mihalik, 26, of Harpers Ferry, the bartender at the Cliffside Bar and Grill, died after being shot in the chest shortly before 10 p.m., police said.

Mihalik was on the floor next to a kitchen door after he was shot and was unconscious, said Harpers Ferry Police Chief Donald Buracker, who responded to the bar with members of West Virginia State Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

Two other men in the bar were shot in the leg, police said.

The three men were shot after the assailant walked into the bar and opened fire with a 9 mm automatic handgun, police said. Six shots were fired.

Police described the scene inside the bar at the Quality Inn as "hostile" as patrons overpowered the assailant. Buracker said one man who was shot was holding the suspect down when he entered the bar.

State police have been unable to comment about a possible motive for the shootings, and Morton said that part of the investigation is ongoing.

Trooper H.D. Heil said earlier in the week that he believes Jones knew Mihalik and Mihalik's brother.

Heil said he was trying to determine whether Jones had a "beef" with the victim, and added he did not believe Mihalik knew of Jones' intentions.

Heil said he believes Jones might have been looking for Mihalik or his brother earlier in the evening before the shooting.

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