W.Va. man accused of murder in choking death could plead to involuntary manslaughter

February 28, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A 22-year-old man charged with second-degree murder in the July 2007 death of Douglas S. Funk II could enter a plea to a misdemeanor count of involuntary manslaughter to resolve the allegations pending against him, Berkeley County's prosecuting attorney said Wednesday.

"There is a plea with the blessing of the victim's family in place," Prosecutor Pamela J. Games-Neely said of the lesser offense now pending against Christopher M. Speikers in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Games-Neely declined to discuss the exact terms of the plea offered, but said Speikers is expected to appear in court Friday before 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes for a hearing.

Games-Neely on Feb. 15 filed an "information" with Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine's office charging Speikers with one count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Funk, 23, of Hedgesville, W.Va., according to court records.


Police alleged Speikers struck Funk in the nose and choked him into an unconscious state on July 12 after intervening in a fight between the victim and his younger brother, a friend of Speikers.

Funk never regained consciousness after he was taken to City Hospital in Martinsburg from his home at 244 Dinner Belle Court. He died a little more than 24 hours later on July 13, police said.

A few hours before Funk died, Speikers was arraigned on one count of malicious assault, which was replaced with the second-degree murder charge a week after the fight happened, according to magistrate court records.

According to state law, a person convicted of involuntary manslaughter could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and fined as much as $1,000. Conviction on a second-degree murder charge comes with a prison sentence that can range from 10 to 40 years.

The murder case originally was assigned to Magistrate JoAnn Overington for a preliminary hearing, but a circuit judge allowed her to recuse herself from the case after admitting to a Berkeley County assistant prosecuting attorney that she had "agonized" about the allegations prior to the hearing and "couldn't see (Speikers) accused of murder," according to court records.

Speikers' attorney, Kevin D. Mills, said Wednesday that a proposal to resolve the case would be presented to Wilkes Friday.

"(My client) regrets this person lost his life, he's very sorry about that," Mills said. "He feels like the resolution (proposed) is fair at this point."

Mills said last summer that his client had no criminal record prior to being arrested, not even a traffic ticket, and had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army. Speikers moved to the Back Creek Valley area of Berkeley County from Florida in the months just before the incident, Mills said previously.

61-2-5. Involuntary manslaughter; penalty.

Involuntary manslaughter is a misdemeanor, and any person convicted thereof shall be confined in jail not to exceed one year, or fined not to exceed one thousand dollars, or both, in the discretion of the court.

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