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W.Va. murder trial could be delayed

September 28, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The trial next week for a Falling Waters, W.Va., man accused of killing his supposed drug supplier in June 2008 and burying the body behind a mobile home might be delayed because of complications surrounding the birth of a child by a primary witness in the state's case.

Carl Eugene "Gene" Manford, 51, of 230 Kurtis Drive, was indicted in February on felony counts of first-degree murder and grand larceny in the death of James Darrell Tucker.

In a pretrial hearing Monday, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely said one of her primary witnesses was in a program in Baltimore for pregnant women who are addicted to drugs and was expected to give birth this month.

"Without her, we have a very difficult case," Games-Neely told 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes.

Police investigators have said that Tucker, 34, was murdered June 28, 2008. Manford allegedly stole the victim's vehicle, a white Pontiac G6, and the victim was reported missing June 29, 2008, after he failed to show up for work the evening of June 28. Authorities exhumed his body July 9 from a shallow grave in a wooded area behind a trailer near Falling Waters that police have said was rented by Manford.

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The woman is homeless, but arrangements had been made for her to be in Martinsburg for the week of the trial scheduled to begin Oct. 6, Games-Neely said.

In the hearing Monday morning, Games-Neely said she was unable to find the woman, but by the afternoon she said the woman had been located.

Games-Neely is expected to notify the court by Wednesday afternoon if the woman will be able to testify or whether the prosecutor will ask for the trial to be continued.

In other pretrial matters, Wilkes said photographs that depict Tucker's body wrapped in plastic, the victim's head wounds and "defensive" wounds were not inflammatory because they were framed in a "clinical" manner.

"They aren't the worst (images) I've ever seen," said defense attorney B. Craig Manford, who voiced little concern about the photographs in Monday's hearing.

Games-Neely told Wilkes that she did not offer the defendant a plea deal and before leaving the courtroom, Wilkes advised the defendant of his options to testify or remain silent in the trial.

"The whole case is just full of drugs," said Manford, who is not related to the defendant.

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