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Trial date delayed for man charged in Martinsburg woman's death

August 19, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A man indicted for his alleged role in the homicide of a Martinsburg woman in May 2007 was in circuit court on Monday on a separate indictment charging him with threatening to hurt a state social services employee a few days after Tina Marie Starcher's murder.

The murder trial for Anthony C. Juntilla, 39, is scheduled to begin Sept. 2, but attorneys on Monday agreed to move a trial date for Juntilla's felony threat indictment from Sept. 4 to Oct. 7.

Just before being arrested and charged with Starcher's murder in June 2007, Juntilla was charged with one felony count of threatening to cause injury to a public employee with the intent to retaliate against the individual for performance or nonperformance of an official duty.

The charge stems from an abuse and neglect hearing in circuit court on May 30, three days after police allege Juntilla and Fred Dwayne Douty II killed Starcher at Juntilla's home. Douty has since pleaded guilty to felony murder in the death of Starcher, who police have said was raped and then stabbed to death. Starcher's body was found on June 20 along Dam #4 Road near the community of Scrabble.

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In Monday's hearing, John P. Adams elaborated on a motion asking Judge Gray Silver III to quash a subpoena issued to Juntilla's now former attorney in the abuse and neglect case.

Police said the attorney told them that Juntilla said he wanted to hit the social services employee handling his case over the head with a chair.

The comment was made during an attorney-client meeting outside of 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh's courtroom in a conference room, according to the complaint filed against Juntilla.

Instead of testifying, Adams said a written statement of what the attorney would have said on the witness stand was being proffered to the court in an agreement with Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely's office.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford, meanwhile, argued that the attorney's statements to police about what was said during the attorney-client meeting should not be allowed because of the confidentiality privilege that is recognized between a defendant and legal counsel.

"This was not a situation where (my client) was seeking information to commit a crime," Manford said referring to a case where an attorney's testimony was allowed.

Manford said his client could very well have been "blowing off steam and running off at the mouth" and argued that he didn't believe any legitimate threat was made to allow the attorney's statement or testimony.

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely said the attorney perceived Juntilla's comments to be a real threat and that it was significant enough to prompt her to tell the social services worker after the statement was made.

In the defense attorney's statement to police last year, she said she believed Juntilla could easily carry out the threat outside the judicial center, if not in the building, according to court records.

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