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Surber deemed competent to stand trial in Sharp's death

November 24, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A man charged with killing his ex-girlfriend during a two-day standoff with police in June near Martinsburg has been deemed competent by a West Virginia University physician, according to Berkeley County Circuit Court records.

Donald B. Surber Jr., 37, of Winchester, Va., last month pleaded not guilty to charges of 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 kidnapping and slaying of Katherine Nicole Sharp, who was found dead in her home by West Virginia State Police on June 15, and Surber's alleged attempt to flee from correctional officers at City Hospital in Martinsburg after being arrested.

Surber's trial is scheduled for Feb. 9.

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, according to court records.

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

Attorneys handling the case Nov. 2 received the results of a competency evaluation by WVU Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry Assistant Professor Christie Cooper-Lehki, according to an order signed by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes and filed Nov. 10 with Berkeley County Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine's office.

The order rescinded the judge's previous order that a second evaluation be performed by Drs. Rosemary L. Smith and Ralph S. Smith Jr. of Charleston, W.Va.

At Surber's arraignment hearing Oct. 29, Wilkes ordered a second evaluation to be completed because Cooper-Lehki's report had not been received in a timely fashion.

After Surber's arraignment, Cooper-Lehki contacted the attorneys in the case and told them she was "confused" by the direction of the court and the attorneys, which were expecting the results of the competency evaluation.

Cooper-Lehki was unable to complete a second portion of her evaluation of the defendant's criminal responsibility/diminished capacity because not all of the state's evidence was available for her review, according to the judge's order.

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