Trial set for claw-hammer killing in W.Va.

May 08, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely has named 51 potential witnesses for the upcoming trial of a Martinsburg man charged in the death of his stepmother last year, circuit court records show.

Thomas A. Dawson, 22, who was indicted by a grand jury in the claw-hammer killing of Jeannette K. Dawson, was in court Monday for a status hearing.

Jeannette K. Dawson, 41, of 345 Blair St., was found dead at her Berkeley Village subdivision home on Aug. 30, 2006, after firefighters responded to a report of a fire there. Police said the fire was intentionally set after the woman was attacked and had interfered in her stepson's robbery of the residence.

With a pretrial hearing and jury trial for Dawson set for later this month, defense attorney Sherman L. Lambert Sr. told 23rd Judicial Circuit judge David H. Sanders on Monday that he wanted to subpoena one witness' cellular phone records and renewed arguments that the grand jury's indictment of his client be dismissed, saying the case was "ripe" for such a motion.


Games-Neely said she wasn't opposed to the request to review the phone records, but noted she was "confident" with the evidence collected by the West Virginia State Police and was prepared to have a jury decide the questions of fact.

Several of the law enforcement agency's officers have been named as potential witnesses, according to court records.

Games-Neely dismissed Lambert's argument that the defense be given a specific time of death, arguing it was a "CSI matter" that the state doesn't have to provide.

Games-Neely also reminded Lambert that Dawson had signed a statement confessing to the crime.

Dawson's arrest on Sept. 5, 2006, came after he gave a second interview to police and Lambert said his client was willing to give a third, but noted the state had declined to re-interview the accused.

In the pretrial hearing, Sanders is expected to rule on defense motions to suppress evidence police retrieved from Dawson's vehicle and the defendant's statement, which Lambert said was given without benefit of legal counsel.

Since replacing court-appointed attorney Thomas Stanley in December at Dawson's request, Lambert has filed motions for a bill of particulars, seeking an exact date as to when Dawson was killed and a motion to change the venue of the trial, which is set to begin May 30.

Lambert withdrew the latter motion last week.

Lambert said a Winchester, Va., psychiatrist is expected to visit with Dawson in Eastern Regional Jail on Friday and is expected to have a report completed next week.

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