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Man not guilty of negligent homicide in W.Va. crash

June 05, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- A Berkeley County Magistrate Court jury on Wednesday afternoon found a Texas man not guilty of negligent homicide and two other misdemeanor charges for his involvement in a two-vehicle accident in 2006.

Russell Lynn Brewer of Elkhart, Texas, also was found not guilty on counts of illegal passing and reckless driving in the accident on Interstate 81 south of Martinsburg that resulted in the death of Earl E. Smedley, 31, of Stephens City, Va.

Smedley was pronounced dead Aug. 23, 2006, at the accident scene about one mile north of the Virginia state line. Officials determined he died from extensive head and neck injuries, according to court records.

West Virginia State Police were dispatched at 5:21 a.m. to the accident scene, which involved a Jeep Wrangler driven by Smedley and a tractor-trailer operated by Brewer, according to court records.

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Police have said Smedley was thrown from the Jeep after the vehicle made contact with the trailer portion of vehicle driven by Brewer and overturned several times in the median.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford represented Brewer in the two-day trial presided over by Magistrate Harry L. Snow. A court official said the jury deliberated for fewer than 30 minutes to reach its verdict.

The state's case was presented by Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Saunders.

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