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Surber's preliminary hearing postponed

July 02, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A preliminary hearing was postponed Wednesday for the man who was shot while allegedly attempting to escape from Eastern Regional Jail correctional officers at City Hospital last month.

Berkeley County Magistrate Joan V. Bragg granted a motion to continue the hearing, which was filed Monday by chief public defender Deborah A. Lawson on behalf of Donald B. Surber Jr.

Surber, 37, of Winchester, Va., was taken June 19 to City Hospital after he cut his wrists at Eastern Regional Jail, where he was being held on felony counts of kidnapping and first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Katherine Nicole Sharp on June 14.

Surber, who is charged with one felony count of escape from custody of the state Commissioner of Corrections in connection with the escape attempt, did not appear in magistrate court Wednesday for the preliminary hearing for that charge.

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In the motion filed with Bragg, Lawson said "there is probable cause to believe that the defendant's criminal responsibility or diminished capacity will be a significant factor in this case" and a psychiatric evaluation needs to be conducted prior to a preliminary hearing. The same argument was made for Surber's scheduled appearance in court last week for a hearing on the kidnapping and first-degree murder charges.

Police have said Surber tried to flee from the hospital after being treated for his cuts, then reached for a correctional officer's gun. The officer shot him once, wounding him in the arm and torso, police have said.

Surber was taken to Winchester (Va.) Medical Center for the gunshot wounds, and was returned June 24 to Berkeley County after he waived extradition.

Police allege Surber stabbed Sharp multiple times during a standoff at her home at 10 Raider Lane in the Ridgefield subdivision near Martinsburg. Surber was taken into custody by police following the 26-hour standoff, which began on the morning of Sunday, June 14, and ended the following day.

A waiver signed by Lawson on Surber's behalf waived the defendant's right to have a preliminary hearing on the felony charge within 20 days of his arrest.

No new court date was set Wednesday for the escape case.

Last week, several officers with the City of Martinsburg and Berkeley County Sheriff's Department provided additional security for Surber's transport to the Berkeley County Judicial Center in anticipation of a possible hearing.

Surber was not taken to the judicial center Wednesday.

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