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Two Martinsburg men plead guilty in robbery, attack of former Berkeley County Commissioner

January 30, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Two men accused in the violent attack and armed robbery of former Berkeley County Commissioner Howard Strauss pleaded guilty Monday to three of five felony charges against them.

Now convicted of first-degree robbery, conspiracy and malicious assault, Brian Lance Shamburg, 31, and Ronald Lee Shamburg, 23, both of Martinsburg, are scheduled to be sentenced April 3 by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III.

Single felony counts of burglary and assault during the commission of a felony were dismissed against each defendant as part of a plea agreement reached with Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely’s office.

A third defendant in the attack, Jennifer Marie Barnhart, 32, has signed a letter that extends the opportunity for her to enter the same guilty pleas, according to Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory K. Jones. Barnhart is scheduled to appear in court early next month, Jones said after Brian Shamburg’s plea hearing Monday.

Jones indicated that the judge has the discretion in sentencing the defendants, who all remain incarcerated at Eastern Regional Jail. Individuals convicted of first-degree robbery shall be incarcerated for not less than 10 years, but the judge could impose a life sentence because there is no maximum penalty provided for in state code, according to Jones.

Police have said that Strauss indicated he was beaten in the face and shocked with an electronic Taser on his stomach and legs more than 20 times. The assailants also took $1,000 in cash from Strauss’ wallet and his mobile phone, police have said.

Strauss, 58, drove himself to City Hospital in Martinsburg for treatment after the robbery and later was released from the hospital, according to police and hospital officials.

Brian Shamburg told Silver on Monday that he was under the influence of drugs and “a little blank” when asked to recount how he and the other defendants conspired to rob Strauss. Shamburg admitted they planned the robbery, but indicated they didn’t plan to hurt Strauss, who said all three hit him.

“Everything happened so fast,” Shamburg said when asked to recount the violent attack, which police said left a large amount of blood on the floor in Strauss’ home.

Shamburg said they found money on the counter in Strauss’ home. Strauss told police that Ronald Shamburg and another man had done some work at Strauss’ Kestrel Drive residence in Falling Waters about a week before the attack, according to court documents.

Strauss served on the county commission, now known as the county council, for one year in 1992 after he was appointed to fill out an unexpired term. He was elected to serve in 1996, but the state Supreme Court awarded the seat to another person because of residency requirements. He was elected to the commission again in 2000 and opted not to run again after serving a six-year term.

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