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W.Va. murder trial set

January 22, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The trial for a man charged in the September 2004 death of 27-year-old Keese Bare is on schedule for Feb. 17 after a pretrial hearing Thursday in Morgan County Circuit Court.

Vernon L. Kerns is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the September 2004 death of Bare.

Kerns, 26, of Berkeley Springs, was indicted by a grand jury in September 2007 along with Jason Payne, 27, of Berkeley Springs, who was convicted of second-degree murder last May and received a 40-year sentence for his involvement in Bare's death.

Sherman L. Lambert, Kerns' attorney, said his client maintains his innocence. Lambert filed two additional motions.

23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh said the motions will be discussed at the next hearing on Feb. 5 at 10:30.

Jerome William Smith, 25, of Frederick County, Va., who was charged with first-degree murder in Bare's death and indicted by a grand jury in September 2008, will not go to trial on Feb. 3. His trial has been reset for May 26.


Smith's attorney, Paul G. Taylor, asked Groh for a continuance, which was granted Thursday in Morgan County Circuit Court.

Taylor said he needs to arrange a psychological evaluation for Smith.

Morgan County prosecutor Debra MH McLaughlin made no objection.

A status hearing is set for March 2 at 9 a.m. and the pretrial hearing is for 1 p.m. on May 18.

Bare's remains were discovered in 2006 at a Potomac River campsite, where his body was burned in a fire pit.

Smith and Kerns are being held at Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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