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Ghost Hunters founder gets probation for practicing medicine, counseling without a license in W.Va.

June 18, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The founder of the West Virginia Society of Ghost Hunters was placed on three years of supervised probation by a 23rd Judicial Circuit judge who suspended an 18-month jail sentence for her convictions of practicing medicine and counseling without a license.

At the end of a two-day trial in September 2007, a jury found Susan R. Crites, 57, of 208 Ruffed Grouse Lane, guilty of three counts of practicing medicine without a license and five counts of counseling without a license.

Prior to hearing the sentencing terms decided by Judge Gray Silver III, Crites said she felt terrible for what happened, specifically mentioning the ordeal of one woman who apparently relied on the defendant's advice before a physician later discovered she had a cancerous tumor.

"I was horrified to learn that she thought I was giving her medical treatment," Crites said.

Earlier this month, 23rd Judicial Circuit judge David H. Sanders in a judgment order said Crites and two other defendants named in a civil action were liable for $350,000 in damages sought by Lisa Scheiger, the "patient" with the cancerous growth.

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In a prepared statement on behalf of Crites' other victims, Scheiger said she hoped the defendant would not be allowed to exploit more people.

In addition to receiving no recommendation for a jail sentence from the victim, the investigating police officer or Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely, Silver added that the case against Crites was not "black or white."

"It was clear she did not intentionally practice medicine or counseling without a license," Silver said.

A psychological evaluation of Crites done earlier this year did not lead the judge to conclude the defendant's behavior was deliberately malicious, Silver said.

"But it is likely she crossed boundaries," said Silver, acknowledging that the crimes were a "very serious" violation of public trust.

As part of her probation terms, Crites was ordered to pay court costs, complete counseling and have no contact with the victims.

She also is not allowed to conduct ghost tours as part of an enterprise or write a book about the matters that resulted in the criminal allegations.

Crites has written at least two books about ghosts in the Tri-State area and in a 2005 interview told The Herald-Mail she was developing a database about ghost sightings in the area.

In her statement to the court on Tuesday, Crites said she wanted the judge to know more about her than what was presented in court, noting numerous instances of community service, including ghost tours she gave to special-needs children.

Crites also said she was awarded the key to the City of Martinsburg by former Mayor Earnest L. Sparks for saving the life of a woman whose Halloween costume caught on fire.

"I am very sorry about what happened," Crites said.

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