Grant convicted in Martinsburg murder

November 30, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A New York City man accused in the October 2005 shooting death of Donald "Dee" Redman was found guilty of second-degree murder Thursday after a jury deliberated for little more than two hours in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

John J. Grant, 23, who was indicted last year on one count of first-degree murder, avoided a life sentence with the conviction on a lesser offense, but he still could receive a 40-year prison sentence, according to Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely.

Police have said Grant, aka Butter, and a man they still know only by the street name "Prince," took part in an execution-style shooting of Redman, 29, of Martinsburg, at a Third Street duplex in the early-morning hours of Oct. 27, 2005.

A warrant for Prince's arrest for aiding and abetting (in the first-degree) murder of Redman remains active and Games-Neely said authorities will continue their pursuit of him.


Grant's sentence, which can range from 10 years to 40 years, will be decided Feb. 4 by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III.

"You don't see the parole board before 10 years are served," Games-Neely said of the minimum amount of prison time required by law that comes with a second-degree murder conviction. Grant backed out of a tentative plea agreement at the last minute Wednesday that would have made it possible for him to serve 10 years of a 20-year sentence.

Though hopeful for a first-degree murder conviction, Games-Neely said she was satisfied with the outcome.

"The police did a really good job with what they had," Games-Neely said outside the courtroom where a deputy circuit clerk read the jury's verdict at 4:30 p.m.

Though disappointed with the verdict, defense attorney B. Craig Manford said he was appreciative that the jury didn't find his client guilty of the indicted offense.

Letters and appeal

Manford said at least part of his procedural appeal of the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia will involve the letters that police said his client wrote to a friend from Eastern Regional Jail after being incarcerated in July 2006.

The letters asked a friend to help Grant convince certain witnesses to change their testimony or physically injure them and cause them not to appear for his trial at all. Grant was indicted last month on two counts of witness intimidation and two counts of witness retaliation stemming from the letters' discovery by police

Exactly how the pending felony charges are adjudicated will depend on Silver's sentencing decision in the murder case, Games-Neely said.

Shot for 'disrespect'

In closing arguments, Games-Neely said the letters validated the testimony given by witnesses for the state's evidence presentation, but she acknowledged those with criminal backgrounds made them far from perfect for the case.

"What this was about was disrespecting another drug dealer," Games-Neely said.

"You can not execute people because you want to be king of the hill," she said.

Reminding the jury of the state's witnesses' criminal histories, Manford also challenged the validity of the letters. He specifically noted that police failed to have the handwriting in the letters analyzed to prove it was Grant's and that the person they were written to admitted she wasn't familiar with his writing style.

Martinsburg Police Department G.B. Swartwood testified on Wednesday that references to the homicide case he investigated appeared in the letters that Grant wrote to his friend, who separately testified she didn't carry out any of Grant's requests.

Witness and accessory

Priscilla Cordell Anderson did. Anderson testified on Wednesday that after Redman was shot at 517 Third St., she drove Grant and Prince to a bus station in Washington D.C. Upon returning to her home in Martinsburg, she said she disposed of the murder weapon in a Berkeley County stream in the Hedgesville, W.Va., area. Anderson testified that she couldn't remember exactly where she discarded the gun, which was held to the left side of Redman's head and fired once. A medical examiner said Redman died almost instantly from the wound.

Anderson testified that one day after the shooting she was arrested by members of the Eastern Panhandle Drug & Violent Crime Task Force for selling crack cocaine that Prince left behind for her. After her arrest, Anderson said she helped police identify Prince and Grant by suggesting they review surveillance footage at Martin's grocery store, where they went days earlier. Grant was positively identified in still frames of the store's footage as Butter by witnesses, who also said they didn't know Butter's or Prince's real name.

Anderson is awaiting sentencing in federal district court on one of two counts, but Games-Neely said she didn't cut Anderson "any deals" with federal authorities for her testimony or cooperation. Anderson testified that she wasn't protecting Prince because she no longer used crack cocaine and had no other reason to pin the blame on Grant.

"It stunned me that it actually happened," Anderson said of Redman's homicide. "It wasn't that big of a deal to them."

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