Fire-pit murder trial on schedule

February 05, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The trial of Vernon L. Kerns, one of three men charged with killing and burning the body of a West Virginia man in a fire pit, is still on schedule to begin Feb. 17 in Morgan County Circuit Court.

At Thursday's pretrial hearing, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh heard arguments by Sherman L. Lambert, Kerns' attorney, regarding statements made by his client to officers Tony Link and Tim Stapleton of the Morgan County Sheriff's Department.

Lambert's issue was whether Kerns was properly advised of his Miranda rights.

After Link testified and portions of the audio recordings were heard, Lambert withdrew his argument regarding the statements made by Kerns to Link.

Stapleton testified that during Kerns' arrest on Sept. 4, 2007, there was about a 30-second break in the conversation with Kerns to switch from one recorder to another. Lambert said the break constituted the need for a second Miranda.


Lambert and Morgan County Prosecutor Debra MH McLaughlin will research the law regarding a time lapse when issuing Miranda rights.

The discussion will resume Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Groh denied the defendant's motion to dismiss on Feb 3. Groh wrote that "the Morgan County Grand Jury had evidence and sufficient evidence was presented to the Grand Jury" regarding Kerns, McLaughlin said.

Keese Bare, 27, died in September 2004, and his remains were discovered in 2006 at a Potomac River camp site.

Kerns, 26, of Berkeley Springs, is being held at Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, W.Va., along with Jerome William Smith, 25, of Frederick County, Va., whose trial is set for May 26.

Jason Payne, 27, of Berkeley Springs, was convicted of second-degree murder in May and received a 40-year sentence for his involvement in Bare's death.

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