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Exhumed body believed to be that of missing W.Va. man

murder charge filed

July 10, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

A body believed to be that of a 34-year-old man reported missing for several weeks was exhumed Wednesday morning from a shallow grave behind a mobile home near Falling Waters, police said.

James Darrell Tucker, of 70 Aquifer Drive in Falling Waters, had been missing since June 29. He was identified by police as the victim of a homicide in a complaint filed against Carl Eugene Manford, 50, of 230 Kurtis Drive in Falling Waters.

Manford was charged with Tucker's death Tuesday and placed in Eastern Regional Jail after being arrested near his home, according to Sheriff W. Randy Smith. A preliminary hearing for Manford was set for July 14 at 3:15 p.m. by Magistrate Sandra L. Miller, who arraigned the man Wednesday.

"We absolutely believe it's (Tucker)," Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely said of the found body.

Because of the state of decomposition, Games-Neely said officials were waiting for a "final confirmation" through dental records by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

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The body was buried in a wooded area about 12 yards from a blue-and-white trailer rented by Manford off Crawford Quarry Road, Smith said.

Tucker was being remembered Wednesday as a loving father and upbeat person who made some mistakes, said Christi Tucker, who recently learned her "friendly" divorce with her husband was all but finalized.

She believed he got "sucked in" to drug dealing activities that police allege brought Manford and Tucker together.

"...the defendant and the deceased had an extensive drug relationship where (Tucker) was (Manford's) drug supplier," Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Sgt. T.M. Snyder said in a complaint filed in magistrate court.

"His lifestyle really changed in the last year and a half," Christi Tucker said.

As they were going their separate ways, she said he was experiencing financial difficulties that came with a downturn in the housing market.

"Everybody makes mistakes. James made his share," she said. "There's so much more to James than just that."

She believes at least part of the reason Tucker was killed is because he was the type of person who "never met a stranger."

"He was a very trusting person," Christi Tucker said. "He believed everybody was his friend.

"Everything that James did, he was good at, including the bad stuff."

She said he loved spending time with their 2-year-old son, Andrew, riding ATVs or "4-wheelin'," playing cards and bowling.

"When I first met him, he was big into bowling" and he was good at that, too, she said.

Until June 28, James Tucker was almost never more than a cell phone call away, Christi Tucker said a couple of days after he was reported missing.

"He lives on his cell phone," she said.

Police say one of the last phone calls made from James Tucker's mobile phone was to Manford on June 28 and that the two talked more than once that day, according to Snyder's complaint. The last time was at 8:14 p.m., Christi Tucker said she learned upon contacting the cell phone's service provider.

Witnesses told police they saw Manford in possession of Tucker's car, a Pontiac convertible, on the evening of June 28 and authorities also determined Manford stayed at the Plaza Hotel in Hagerstown near Wesel Boulevard that day, records show.

James Tucker's vehicle was found near the hotel by his father the next morning.

Tucker's father declined to comment Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, the body found behind Manford's home was carried from the burial site about 9:15 a.m., loaded into a van and taken to Brown Funeral Home. County medical examiner Travis Shroades said he was called at 5:30 a.m. and asked to be at the site at 7 a.m. to observe the exhumation of the body.

Smith said investigators arrived at Manford's home about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and found "a lot" of blood in the residence.

"We've been pretty much inside the trailer all night," Smith said Wednesday morning. A burn pile near the trailer and the grave site were scoured for evidence, Smith said.

Tucker was reported missing several hours after he failed to show up for work the night of June 28 at the family's Hedgesville, W.Va., gaming business.

A few of Manford's neighbors said Wednesday they never had any problems with the man and were surprised to learn of his arrest and the homicide.

Vaughn Younker said Manford didn't bother him or his wife, Sue, in the year or so they had been neighbors.

"He stayed over there. I stayed over here," Younker said Wednesday morning.

Younker said a neighbor called at 6 p.m. to let him know police had arrived at Manford's home.

"I hadn't seen anybody around over there for a few days," Younker said Wednesday.


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