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Berkeley County sheriff: Homicide case eating into budget

July 18, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith told the county commission Thursday that the cost of the department's active homicide investigation is approaching $20,000 and would be a lot more if not for volunteers.

"We couldn't survive without the police reserves," Smith said of the county deputy sheriff's reserve unit.

The group provided 248 hours of volunteer security service as sheriff's department investigators probed the Falling Waters, W.Va., area home of Carl E. Manford, the man charged in the death of James D. Tucker, Smith said.

Manford's home was secured with volunteers over a five-day period last week, Smith said.

Smith told commissioners Steven C. Teufel, William L. "Bill" Stubblefield and Ronald K. Collins that he didn't want to offend friends and family of the homicide victim by mentioning the cost, but wanted the commission to know just how much his budget can be affected by one incident.

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"One case like this takes a big bite out of it," said Smith, warning that the county's growth likely will place more financial burdens on the sheriff's department if homicides become more and more prevalent.

In addition to the volunteer hours, Smith said deputies had worked 93 hours of overtime investigating the case.

This week, Smith told the commission that he spent four hours reviewing evidence with Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely as follow-ups and "loose ends" in the case were being checked.

Tucker's body was exhumed July 9 from a shallow grave in a wooded area behind a mobile home rented by Manford.

The cause of the 34-year-old Falling Waters man's death was blunt force trauma and police have said that preliminary autopsy results from the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner show he had multiple skull fractures.

Smith's comments about the department's cost came after he told the commission that he had no money available to perform state-mandated duties as a conservator of property for people who cannot manage it themselves because of illness, dementia or other debilitating circumstances.

"This business is just booming," Smith said of the extra demand on his office that has come with an aging population.

The sheriff's department's services typically are reimbursed after an estate is settled or the property in question is transferred, but until then, Smith said he is obligated to preserve and protect it, regardless of where it is.

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