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Jury finds W.Va. man guilty in '07 killing

September 06, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A Hedgesville, W.Va., man was found guilty Friday in Berkeley County Circuit Court of first-degree murder in the 2007 Memorial Day weekend rape and slaying of a 40-year-old Martinsburg woman.

The jury recommended no mercy in convicting Anthony Charles Juntilla, 39, who faces life in prison with no opportunity for parole.

The panel of six men and six women, who deliberated for six hours over two days, also returned guilty verdicts on counts of first-degree sexual assault and conspiracy to commit sexual assault in the death of Tina Marie Starcher. Juntilla was acquitted of conspiracy to commit murder.

He will be formally sentenced Oct. 27, a date set by 23rd Judicial Circuit judge David H. Sanders.

Juntilla showed no visible reaction to the jury's decision.

None of Starcher's family members who attended the trial earlier in the week were in the courtroom to hear the outcome.

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"It got justice for Tina and Tina's family," said Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely, who admitted that she didn't expect the jury to deliberate as long as they did.

"I want to congratulate the state police for believing Stefanie (Brennan) when she called," Games-Neely said, referring to Juntilla's former girlfriend who reported the homicide on June 17, 2007, three weeks after Starcher was killed. "We would have never solved this crime without her."

Games-Neely also thanked Juntilla's family for cooperating with investigators at the crime scene, a town house at 86 Tecumseh Trail in The Woods subdivision west of Hedgesville, where he and Brennan had lived. Brennan was one of two key witnesses in the state's case.

After beginning deliberations Thursday afternoon, the jury asked the judge for a transcript of Brennan's testimony, which revealed that Juntilla first told her about the crime while she was in a rehab program for crack cocaine addiction. The jury was instructed by Sanders that they had to rely on their own recollection of what Brennan said on the witness stand.

The state's other witness, Fred D. Douty II, entered a guilty plea to felony murder for his role in Starcher's death and is expected to be sentenced later this month to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

"We respect the jury's decision," said defense attorney B. Craig Manford, who repeatedly reminded the jury of evidence indicating Douty lied to police who investigated Starcher's death.

Manford said he would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Douty's testimony of how Starcher was sexually assaulted and beaten before her throat was slit and her body was dumped along Dam #4 Road appeared similar to what Brennan said Juntilla told her. Brennan and Douty both testified that they didn't know each other until after the homicide was reported to police.

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