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Deal to release victim's body delayed

August 14, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An apparent agreement to release the remains of homicide victim Debra A. Fielder to the administrators of her estate was delayed Monday by a last-minute request to review forensic findings, according to Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely.

Fielder's body remains in Charleston, W.Va., at the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where samples were taken for testing after police recovered it from Back Creek on Aug. 20, 2006, Games-Neely said. Fielder's body was found dismembered along with gym weights in suitcases by two people fishing Back Creek near the community of Shanghai in western Berkeley County.

Fielder's ex-husband, Stephen R. Fielder of Bunker Hill, W.Va., is charged with her murder. His trial is to begin Nov. 27.

Games-Neely declined to reveal the results of the testing, but said she believes Fielder and his defense attorney, B. Craig Manford, wanted more time to resolve some questions concerning the medical examiner's conclusions about the woman's death and to decide whether to have the same samples tested again or to have certain organs tested.

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In a disposition motion filed with 23rd Judicial Circuit judge David H. Sanders on July 31, Games-Neely said the state determined that the body no longer needed to be held for evidentiary purposes.

Games-Neely noted that Dennis and Linda Johnson of Inwood, W.Va., administrators of Fielder's estate, planned to have her remains be cremated, per their friend and former bandmate's wishes, according to court documents.

Games-Neely expected an agreed order with Manford allowing Fielder's remains to be released to eventually be filed with the court rather than having another hearing.

The delayed release of Fielders remains didn't have any bearing on the Johnsons' plan to remember Fielder on Saturday. A public service will be held at 4 p.m. in Ridgeway Church Hall off Specks Run Road and U.S. 11.

"We planned all along for a memorial service," Linda Johnson said Monday evening.

The couple have purchased a headstone and Johnson said Fielder will be interred next to her adoptive father's grave site at Shenandoah Memorial Park, in Winchester, Va.

In a separate motion, Games-Neely said Sanders on Monday allowed a "possible skin fragment" collected from a canoe seized by police during their investigation to be destroyed.

Calls to Manford's office were not immediately returned Monday.

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