Bone identification expert testifies in W.Va. murder trial

Owsley said there is no doubt remains were those of Keese Bare

Owsley said there is no doubt remains were those of Keese Bare

May 08, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A Smithsonian Institution forensic anthropologist testified Wednesday that he identified the bones that were found at a camp site in 2006 as those of Keese Bare, who had been missing since September 2004.

Douglas W. Owsley, a bone identification expert, testified Wednesday in Morgan County Circuit Court in the trial of Jason M. Payne, who was charged in 2007 with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in Bare's death.

Payne, 26, of Berkeley Springs, has maintained his innocence.

Two other men are charged in Bare's death. Vernon L. Kerns, 25, of Berkeley Springs, was charged in 2007 with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Jerome William Smith, 24, of Frederick County, Va., was charged last month with first-degree murder. They are being held without bond at Eastern Regional Jail, according to jail records.

Morgan County Sheriff's Department Deputy Timothy Stapleton, who is now a lieutenant, found Bare's remains near a Potomac River campsite in April 2006. The body had been burned and the remains buried in a shallow grave.


John Gue testified Wednesday that in April 2006 he told Stapleton he would find Bare's remains in the fire pit.

He testified that Vernon Kerns told him about Bare's death in September 2004, possibly two days after Bare was killed.

He said he kept the information to himself at first because he did not believe what he had heard.

Then, in 2006, "My conscience got the best of me," he testified. "I called Stapleton and we arranged a meeting."

After hearing what Kerns had to say, several members of the Sheriff's Department went to the campsite and found bone fragments, a belt buckle, a knife blade, keys and other items, Deputy Tony Link testified.

Owsley, who had 1,368 bone fragments with which to work, testified he was able to identify the victim by comparing those fragments with X-rays taken of Bare when he was 15.

"There is no doubt it was tried to make the body unrecognizable," Owsley testified. But, he said, there was no doubt that the remains were those of Bare.

Payne's former wife, Vanessa "Mickey" Payne, was the final witness to take the stand Wednesday. Under prosecution questioning, she said she was married to Payne in 2005.

She said that in May 2006 she was in a truck with her then-husband Payne and Kerns when Kerns spoke about the details of Bare's death.

She testified she was told the men got Bare drunk, beat him, slit his throat and burned him.

"I did not call the police because I did not really believe it, and I didn't want my husband to get in trouble," she testified.

She said her husband said nothing while Kerns gave the account.

Vanessa Payne is expected to continue testifying when court resumes today.

The state is represented by prosecuting attorney Debra MH McLaughlin. Payne's defense attorney is B. Craig Manford. Judge Gina M. Groh of the 23rd Judicial Circuit is presiding.

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