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Driver of van in fatal wreck faces charges

April 19, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HEDGESVILLE, W.VA. - A Hedgesville man allegedly was under the influence of a narcotic Thursday afternoon when the Ford Windstar van he was driving on W.Va. 9 collided with a car and killed two women from Ohio, police said in court documents filed Friday.

Darrell James Russ Jr., 28, of 140 Rustic Tavern Road, was arraigned by Magistrate Jim Humphrey on two felony counts of DUI with death. Humphrey set a $100,000 bond for Russ, who was in Eastern Regional Jail Friday night.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 28 by Magistrate Joan V. Bragg's office.

Police said Russ failed a sobriety test, had slurred speech, fell asleep while talking to police and stumbled down an embankment at the accident scene, according to a complaint filed by Berkeley County Sheriff's Deputy R.C. Grove.

Grove said Russ told him that he had taken Percocet before the accident, according to the complaint.

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Edna Nofziger, 90, and Mary Kempf, 68, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, which happened Thursday about 1:30 p.m. west of Hedgesville near Log Home Drive, Grove said.

Grove was unable to release hometowns of the women or of the two other people riding in the silver Buick with them.

The driver, Sanford Eash, 72, also of Ohio, was in serious condition Friday at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., according to a hospital spokesperson.

Linda Eash, 60, also of Ohio, was taken to the hospital, according to police, but the spokesperson said Friday she no longer was a patient.

Russ was not taken to the hospital. A passenger in the van, Crystal Gilbert, 25, of Hedgesville, was taken to the hospital, but no longer was a patient Friday, the spokesperson said.

Police said Thursday those taken to the hospital did not appear to have life-threatening injuries.

Preliminary findings indicate the van was westbound when it crossed the center line of Hedgesville Road and went into the path of the eastbound car, police said.

Grove said Friday that the medics who responded to the accident told him that all four people riding in the Buick were wearing seat belts, but Grove was unable to clarify whether Russ or Gilbert were wearing them.

Grove said he asked Russ if he was taking prescribed medication, but the officer did not specify a response in his complaint other than indicating Russ' statement that he ingested Percocet. The narcotic is prescribed to relieve pain, but is known to be abused.

Russ appeared before Humphrey in March 2007 and entered guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and public intoxication stemming from a vehicle-related incident on Feb. 18, 2007, according to court records.

According to a complaint filed at that time by a West Virginia State Police trooper, Russ was intoxicated, but wasn't driving when the vehicle he was riding in ran out of gas on Cannon Hill Road near Hedgesville.

A woman charged with DUI in that incident said Russ had been drunk for the past four days and they were on their way to get another bottle of Black Velvet whiskey, according to court records.

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