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W.Va. man pleads guilty to DUI causing death

March 28, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Stuart A. Woodling
West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Charles Town, W.Va., man charged with driving under the influence causing death in a 2009 vehicle crash has agreed to enter a guilty plea to the crime as part of a pending agreement to settle the case.

The agreement would essentially allow Stuart A. Woodling, 33, to serve two-thirds of his sentence for a DUI-causing-death conviction while confined at home after serving about eight months in jail, according to Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely and defense attorney Harley O. Wagner.

“This plea is certainly not the policy of my office,” Games-Neely told presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III as he reviewed the proposed terms.

The agreement, which includes the dismissal of a DUI-with-injury charge, came at the request of the victim’s family, the attorneys said. After Monday’s hearing, Wagner said the plea agreement entails requirements that his client participate in outpatient counseling.

Games-Neely said she had a number of conversations about the case with James W. Shell’s family, including his son, who is a prosecuting attorney in Georgia.

Silver is expected to announce May 16 whether he will accept the plea after reviewing a 23rd Judicial Circuit probation officer’s investigation of Woodling’s background.

Woodling, of 3137 Shirley Road, has been in Eastern Regional Jail since September 2010, when his bond was revoked and forfeited because he tested positive for cocaine, according to court and jail records.

Woodling was indicted in May 2010 on one count of DUI causing death and one count of DUI causing injury in an Oct. 13, 2009, crash that led to the death of Shell, 59, of Winchester, Va., in the 2600 block of Middleway Pike (W.Va. 51).

Mark S. Geaghan, a passenger in Shell’s vehicle, was injured, police have said.

Two days after the accident, police found in medical records that Woodling’s blood-alcohol level was .202, more than twice the legal limit of .08, and that he also tested positive for cocaine, according to court records.  

Wagner said after Monday’s pretrial hearing that his client wished to express his “sincere remorse” for the accident.

Wagner told Silver that his client would be released from jail about the time of the May 16 hearing if the judge accepts the plea.

Absent the victim’s family request to essentially offer Woodling a reprieve, Games-Neely said she would have sought the maximum two- to 10-year sentence in seeking a conviction.

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Status hearing on another DUI-causing-death case

In a separate DUI-causing-death case pending against 22-year-old Jessica N. Faircloth, Games-Neely said Monday that the state’s offer to resolve the case against her would require the defendant to enter a guilty plea to the charge and receive the maximum sentence, which the victim’s family wants.

In exchange for the guilty plea involving the death of David E. Kessel in July 2010, Games-Neely said the state is willing to offer Faircloth a reprieve on unrelated charges of fraudulent use of a credit card.

Faircloth, who is incarcerated, made a brief appearance in court Monday for a status hearing. Games-Neely said the case was on track for trial and that a plea offer was extended.

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