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Surber pleads not guilty in kidnap-slaying

Man charged with killing ex-girlfriend during standoff won't represent himself

Man charged with killing ex-girlfriend during standoff won't represent himself

October 29, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Winchester, Va., man charged with killing his ex-girlfriend during a two-day standoff with police in June pleaded not guilty to several charges Thursday in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Donald B. Surber Jr., 37, entered not guilty pleas to first-degree murder, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, burglary, felony destruction of property, domestic assault, attempted escape, attempt to disarm a law enforcement officer and attempt to possess a weapon by inmate of jail.

The charges relate to the murder and kidnapping of Katherine Nicole Sharp, who was found dead in her home by West Virginia State Police on June 15.

Surber, who had requested in a letter that he be allowed to serve as his own legal counsel, told 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes that he wanted to retain court-appointed attorneys John Adams and Deborah A. Lawson.

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Wilkes scheduled Surber's trial for Feb. 9.

Surber wore a ballistic vest for Thursday's court appearance, and Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr. increased security at the county's judicial center. Lemaster joined court security staff in escorting Surber into the courtroom.

Lemaster said Surber's transport to and from Eastern Regional Jail was handled without incident.

Police allege Surber held Sharp hostage in her home at 10 Raider Lane in the Ridgefield subdivision off W.Va. 9 west of Martinsburg on June 14 and 15. A warrant charging Surber with murder said Sharp was killed June 14. The standoff ended on the afternoon of June 15, court records state.

After his arrest, Surber attempted suicide by cutting his wrists while in Eastern Regional Jail and he tried to escape police guards after being treated for his wounds at City Hospital in Martinsburg, according to published reports.

On Thursday, Wilkes ordered another competency evaluation to be completed because the court and attorneys involved had not received a report that Wilkes ordered June 30.

"I'm a little troubled that we haven't received that back," Wilkes said of the report that was to be completed at Chestnut Ridge Center in Morgantown, W.Va., according to court records.

Amy Johns, a spokesperson with the West Virginia University Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, said Thursday that forensic psychiatrist Christi Cooper-Lehki was waiting for more records from the prosecuting attorney's office before completing the report.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely said she was contacted Thursday afternoon by Cooper-Lehki, who said she would send the report "right along."

Games-Neely said she reiterated to Cooper-Lehki that the attorneys' request was for the competency report alone, not her findings on the issue of criminal responsibility.

Games-Neely said she and Adams agreed to move forward with a second evaluation by a forensic psychiatrist in Charleston, W.Va., that Wilkes ordered Thursday if Cooper-Lehki's report does not arrive by the beginning of next week.

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