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December trial date set for Berkeley Springs man charged in fire pit killing

July 10, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. A second man charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the September 2004 death of Keese Bare, 27, will be tried in December.

At the Monday status hearing in Morgan County Circuit Court for Vernon L. Kerns, 25, of Berkeley Springs, the Sept. 16 trial was postponed until Dec. 9, according to Dan James, assistant prosecuting attorney for Morgan County.

A pretrial hearing is set for Nov. 20, James said.

Kerns was charged with the crime in 2007 and is being held without bond at Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Kevin Mills, Kerns' former attorney, withdrew from the case in May, said Debra MH McLaughlin, Morgan County prosecuting attorney.

Judge Gina M. Groh of the 23rd Judicial Court granted Kerns' new attorney, Sherman Lambert of Shepherdstown, W.Va., additional time to prepare for the murder trial.

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The remains of Keese Bare were discovered in 2006 at a Potomac River camp site, where his body had been burned in a fire pit.

Jerome William Smith, 24, of Frederick Co., Va., was charged with first-degree murder in the case and is being held at Eastern Regional Jail. His indictment will be presented to the grand jury in September, McLaughlin said.

Jason Payne, 26, of Berkeley Springs, was convicted of second-degree murder in May and received a 40-year sentence for his involvement in Bare's death.

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