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Police, medical examiner testify in man's double slaying trial

September 13, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Two years later, the smell of bleach is a pungent reminder of tragedy to Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Deputy Cpl. B.F. Hall.

When Hall entered the ransacked home of Raymond E. White Jr. and his son, Raymond E. White IV, two years ago, a smell typically associated with cleanliness became vile.

"It was so overwhelming that to this day, when I smell bleach, it takes me back there," Hall testified Wednesday in the trial of Wade Warren Painter, the man accused of killing the Whites at 1734 Paynes Ford Road on Sept. 14, 2005.

Bleach was poured on the blankets that covered the 20-year-old White's body and the tarp that covered his father after each had been shot twice in the head at the home south of Martinsburg, jurors were told on the second day of Painter's trial.

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There was evidence that the father was severely beaten and strangled, and the son had chemical burns from the bleach that apparently soaked through the blankets and rugs that covered his body in the kitchen, witnesses for the state said.

When the trial resumes today at 9 a.m., jurors are expected to hear the remaining portion of recorded statements by Painter to police about how he came into possession of a car owned by the younger White.

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely is expected to call expert witnesses.

"I would characterize (his statements) as his version of events, be it as they are," said Deputy Sgt. T. Snyder when asked by Games-Neely if he considered the recordings to be a confession.

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.

Hall's testimony Wednesday about the recovery of physical evidence was meant to circumstantially link Painter to a three-day crime spree, beginning with the theft of a .25-caliber pistol believed to be the murder weapon and a number of firearms from a man's trailer at 2618 Paynes Ford Road on Sept. 12, 2005.

Some of the items, but not the murder weapon, were found in the trailer in which Painter was living with his girlfriend at 385 Pond Lane. A box of .25-caliber bullets was found beneath a bridge over a creek along Pond Lane near Painter's home, and playing cards seen in White's house were found along the stream bank, Hall said.

Hall said a book bag that was "kind of stashed" among a row of pine trees with a garbage bag near the driveway to the White's home seemingly linked the homicides to another burglary at 2423 Paynes Ford Road.

The victim, who told police she was out of town, reported the break-in Sept. 16, 2006, the day Hall said he learned about the first incident and that .25-caliber bullets were lodged in the skull of the victims. The book bag contained the burglary victim's driver's license and identification card, Hall said.

A forensic pathologist with the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner testified Wednesday that both homicide victims were shot once in the head at close range or within 16 inches. A second bullet that entered the son's right temple was fired from a greater distance, Hamada Mahmoud said.

A bullet entered the father's lower lip and ricocheted out of his mouth and was not recovered, Mahmoud said.

There were cuts, bruises and abrasions to the father's upper chest, appearing as if he struggled with the assailant, Mahmoud said. The 64-year-old's head also received blunt force trauma and the force caused a hinge skull fracture.

The cause of death for both men was gunshot wounds to the head, but the evidence of head trauma and strangulation were listed as contributing factors to the father's death, Mahmoud said.

Alec Hall, a friend of the younger White, said he called White twice about 2:30 or 3 a.m. on Sept. 14. A man he didn't know answered the phone and told him he didn't know who Ray was.

After Hall hung up and called back, White answered the phone and said a friend named "Mike" was there and he had to go. Alec Hall said he didn't know White had a friend with that name and the exchanges made him feel uneasy.

A phone call that Alec Hall placed to the home about 11 a.m. wasn't answered, but he said he figured his friend was asleep.

That afternoon, Alec Hall found White covered in blankets in the kitchen and realized his friend was dead.

"I can't tell you, I couldn't breathe ... I couldn't talk, I was hyperventilating ... It was a horrible feeling. I think I said ... 'somebody's dead,'" Alec Hall said.

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