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Man charged in Martinsburg kidnap-slaying asks to represent self

May 22, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Winchester, Va., man charged with the fatal stabbing of his ex-girlfriend during a standoff with police last summer is scheduled to return to court next month after requesting in writing that he be allowed to represent himself.

Donald B. Surber, 38, in a letter to 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes, said he felt that his legal counsel "is not doing their job, nor is doing anything to help me."

The letter, dated April 12, was filed May 13 in Berkeley County Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine's office.

Wilkes scheduled a hearing on the request for June 25.

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 standoff June 14 and 15.

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.

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In the letter to Wilkes, Surber requested that he appear in court in person "as soon as possible" instead of through a video conference, claiming he could only hear every other word of previous proceedings because the transmission was "breaking up."

In representing himself, Surber indicated he would need more time to research his case in the law library.

In April, Surber said during a 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." He did not say what his plea might be.

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.

While being held at Eastern Regional Jail, Surber attempted suicide by cutting his wrists, and he 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. Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said at the time that Surber's relocation would be "safer for the defendant and the public."

Surber has not appeared in person in court since October 2009, when he pleaded not guilty to all of the charges in the indictment.

Surber's trial is set for Aug. 24.

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