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Testimony begins in murder trial

September 12, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The sloppily written note affixed to the sliding-glass front door of the home shared by Raymond E. White Jr. and his son announced to friends that they had left the state and for them to "call if it is important."

On the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2005, important to William "Chris" Barrett when he arrived at his friends' house at 1734 Paynes Ford Road was the work on his 1987 Porsche parked in the backyard.

Barrett's desire to know about the progress being made on the car led to the discovery that White, 64, and his son, Raymond E. White IV, 20, had not left town, but were lying dead inside, beaten and shot. They were victims of a double slaying that police allege was committed by Wade Warren Painter, whose murder trial began Tuesday.

Barrett's testimony was the first heard by eight women and six men - including two alternates - chosen to be jurors from a 73-person pool. Two people failed to appear for jury duty, according to the deputy clerk for presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes.

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Painter, 27, was indicted in February 2006 on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of daytime burglary, and counts of possession of a stolen vehicle, grand larceny and petit larceny as part of a three-day crime spree that police allege culminated with the homicides.

Barrett, 23, said he discovered his Porsche was in the same condition he last saw it, unlike the backyard of his friends' house when he arrived there after work.

"A bunch of stuff was laying around the backyard" that didn't belong there, like the baseball bat that White's son usually kept in his green Mazda MX-6.

And the back door was wide open, Barrett testified.

Thinking there might be an intruder in the house, Barrett said he picked up the bat and walked toward the open sliding door.

"I just peeked inside and looked around," Barrett testified.

The window blinds were pulled shut and a blanket appeared to be covering another, he said. A houseplant was knocked over and computer parts normally in the basement were lying on the linoleum floor near the door in the kitchen, he said.

He didn't see White's son lying on the floor. His good friend, whom he met at a birthday party about three years earlier, was covered in blankets and rugs.

Though suspecting a burglary had happened, Barrett said he called Alec Hall, a mutual friend, instead of 911 because he knew White's father was growing marijuana plants at the house.

Barrett then went to Hall's house and returned with him, his father Bradford Hall and the father's fiance.

Hall's father testified Tuesday that his son ran into the house and then came out screaming and crying after seeing the feet and legs of White's son, who police have said was shot in the head above his right ear. His father was severely beaten and shot twice, police have said.

"He couldn't even speak," Hall said.

In the traumatic dialogue with a 911 dispatcher that followed at 4:25 p.m., Hall relayed that White's son's vehicle, a dark green Mazda MX-6, was not at the house.

In opening statements, Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely revisited police accounts indicating the defendant was seen driving the Mazda, but also conceded that Painter never confessed to the crime and that the state's evidence is largely circumstantial.

"He never confesses to anything," Games-Neely said.

But she said Painter also volunteered to police during questioning that he "didn't shoot anybody" when officers didn't tell them how White and his son had died, among other evidence that links him to the homicides.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford countered that jurors would hear evidence indicating there was another man who intended to rob the victims and that his client "emphatically maintains his innocence."

Though the jury was seated by 11 a.m., Tuesday's proceedings were delayed when Wilkes announced that a vehicle driven by the wife of a witness backed into a juror's vehicle at lunchtime. A few minutes after resolving potential concerns posed by the encounter, an older woman on the jury panel slipped and fell, hurting her ankle while taking her seat in the jury box. Barrett began testifying just before 2 p.m.

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