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Double-slaying case in the hands of jury in Berkeley County

September 18, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Jurors in the double-slaying trial for Wade Warren Painter are expected to continue deliberating this morning in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Painter, 27, is accused of shooting Raymond E. White Jr., 64, and his son, Raymond E. White IV, 20, in an early-morning encounter Sept. 14, 2005, in the victims' home at 1734 Paynes Ford Road.

After hearing the remainder of the state's presentation of evidence and less than an hour of testimony from defense witnesses Monday, the jury of six men and six women was instructed by presiding judge Christopher C. Wilkes to reach verdicts on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of burglary and counts of grand larceny, petit larceny and possession of a stolen vehicle.

If a verdict of not guilty is reached on the charge of first-degree murder, the jury was asked to reach a verdict on second-degree murder counts. A guilty finding to the lesser offense would leave Painter to face a maximum of 40 years in prison for each count, according to Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely. A petit larceny conviction also can be reached in place of the grand larceny charge.

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"There is no other conclusions (than the indictment) and we ask you to find him guilty across the board," Games-Neely said in closing arguments.

Games-Neely told the jury she wished investigators had found the murder weapon.

"I can not give you a gun and place in his hand," Games-Neely said.

But she reminded jurors of the findings by forensic experts who testified last week that Painter's fingerprints were found at the home. Blood found on Painter's shoes and clothing belonged to the victims, and blood found in the car owned by the younger White and reported stolen matched Painter's blood.

Defense co-counsel Andrew S. Arnold countered that his client six times denied killing anyone to Berkeley County Sheriff's Department investigators, who he said failed to fully investigate other leads in the case.

"Justice is hard work, injustice is easy ... Injustice is rounding up all the usual suspects," Arnold said.

He alluded to a man who identified himself to a friend of the younger White as "Mike" in a phone conversation about 3 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2005.

Arnold also questioned the credibility of state witnesses who were friends with the victims and who testified that they smoked marijuana at the Paynes Ford Road home and shot firearms from the back deck at a known place to buy drugs.

The second of two recorded statements that Painter gave to police and was replayed for the jury Monday indicate he purchased marijuana from the younger White, who he called "Stoney."

A defense witness who testified that she routinely cleaned the Whites' house said she saw Painter at the home three or four times before the men were killed, including a visit in July 2005.

Games-Neely theorized that Painter might have identified himself as Mike on the phone and was visiting the younger White in an attempt to sell a .25-caliber pistol that experts have said was the murder weapon.

A .25-caliber pistol is one of several items police allege Painter stole from a Paynes Ford Road home two days before the Whites were found dead. A pawn shop employee in Martinsburg testified that a receipt was signed by Painter when he sold the business two rings later determined to be stolen from the same residence.

Jurors heard testimony from a Hedgesville, W.Va., man who said Painter attempted to sell him a .25-caliber pistol the afternoon before the bodies were found.

"He said he was trying to get some money for rent," Kenneth Weigle II testified Monday morning.

In making a motion for acquittal, defense co-counsel B. Craig Manford acknowledged the prosecutor had a "good circumstantial case" indicating Painter was at the Whites' residence "at some time."

Manford, however, also suggested his client could have just as easily "stumbled" onto the slayings after the fact.

"There's ample evidence that there was more than one person involved in the crime," Manford said, referring to two pairs of blood-stained shoes recovered in the investigation.

"People don't change their shoes in the middle of committing a crime," Manford said.

Games-Neely suggested it was possible.

"Make him responsible for what he did," Games-Neely said. "And don't believe the web he was trying to spin with these officers."

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