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Jury finds W.Va. man guilty in 2004 slaying

May 11, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A Berkeley Springs man was found guilty of second-degree murder early Saturday in the Sept. 2, 2004, death and burning of a man at a West Virginia campsite.

Jason M. Payne, 26, one of three men charged in the death of Keese Bare, was found not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder by a jury in Morgan County Circuit Court.

Under the second-degree murder conviction, Payne faces the possibility of 10 to 40 years in prison, which will be determined at sentencing, prosecuting attorney Debra MH McLaughlin said. A sentencing date has not been set.

The 12-person jury reached a decision after eight hours of deliberation that began Friday about 5:30 p.m. The verdict was read Saturday at 1:40 a.m.

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Payne did not display any emotion when the verdict was read.

Twice during deliberations, the jury presented written questions to the court.

On Friday about 9 p.m., the jury requested instructions from 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh relating to first- and second-degree murder.

At 11:50 p.m., the jury asked for verification on what is meant by "duty" in the court's instructions.

On Saturday about 12:30 a.m., Groh asked the jury to return to the courtroom after she, B. Craig Manford, Payne's defense attorney, and Debra MH McLaughlin, the prosecuting attorney, researched the question and decided the court needed more time to "define it further," Groh said.

Groh gave the jury the option of continuing on with deliberations or returning Monday morning. The jury wanted to continue, and at 1:30 a.m., it was announced that a verdict had been reached.

Others charged

The two other men charged in Bare's death are Vernon Kerns, 25, who is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and Jerome William Smith, 24, who was charged last month with first-degree murder. Kerns' trial is scheduled for September.

Bare's remains were not found until 2006. The remains were identified by Douglas W. Owsley, a Smithsonian Institution forensic anthropologist, who testified Wednesday that he had 1,368 bone fragments with which to work and that he was able to identify the victim by comparing those fragments with X-rays taken on Bare when he was younger.

"There is no doubt it was tried to make the body unrecognizable," Owsley said Wednesday. But he said there was no doubt that the remains were those of Bare, 27.

The post-trial motion date was set for May 19.

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