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Man charged in fatal stabbing wants to change plea

April 12, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- A Winchester, Va., man charged in the fatal stabbing of his ex-girlfriend last summer during a standoff with police told the judge in the case Monday that he would like to change his plea.

Donald B. Surber, 38, told 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes via video conference from Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville, W.Va., that he wished to represent himself and "take criminal responsibility for what I've done."

Surber did not say Monday whether he would plead guilty or no contest.

"I'd like to dismiss my attorneys at this time," Surber said of his court-appointed counsel, Deborah A. Lawson and John Adams.

Surber is charged in the death of Katherine Nicole Sharp, who died in her home at 10 Raider Lane west of Martinsburg during a 26-hour police standoff June 14 and 15.

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Sharp died June 14, according to court records.

In October, Surber entered a not guilty plea to counts 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.

Surber said that after being incarcerated for 10 months he didn't "want to drag this out" for the sake of his two children and the victim's two children.

"I do not want my attorneys to do anything further on my behalf," Surber said.

Wilkes told Surber that he needed to put his concerns in writing before he could act on Surber's request to represent himself in the case or to change his plea.

In denying bond for Surber, Wilkes noted that a psychological evaluation of the defendant deemed him competent to stand trial and his understanding of criminal responsibility was not an issue.

The judge deferred acting on a defense motion to set bond until after the psychological evaluation was completed.

On Monday, Wilkes agreed with Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely's request to deny bond for Surber. The judge noted the defendant's criminal record in Virginia and attempt to escape from correctional officers at City Hospital in Martinsburg after being arrested for Sharp's death.

While incarcerated at Eastern Regional Jail, Surber attempted suicide by cutting his wrists and then was shot once while trying to escape from the hospital where he was being treated for his injuries, police have said.

Before being moved to Northern Regional Jail, Surber was held at Tygart Valley Regional Jail near Elkins, W.Va.

Games-Neely said at the time that Surber's relocation would be "safer for the defendant and the public."

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