Woman pleads guilty in beating, robbery of ex-Berkeley County Commissioner

February 13, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Howard Strauss
Howard Strauss

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A woman 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 her.

Jennifer Marie Barnhart, 32, of Martinsburg — who pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, conspiracy and malicious assault — is scheduled to be sentenced April 3, the same day as co-defendants, Brian Lance Shamburg, 31, and Ronald Lee Shamburg, 23, also of Martinsburg.

Police have said Strauss indicated he was beaten in the face and shocked with a Taser on his stomach and legs more than 20 times during the robbery. The assailants took $1,000 in cash from Strauss’ wallet, as well as his mobile phone, police have said. Strauss drove himself to City Hospital in Martinsburg for treatment after the robbery, according to police.

During Monday’s plea hearing, Barnhart admitted she went along with the Shamburgs to rob Strauss and that she found his wallet, but she said she did not take part in the beating.

When 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III asked Barnhart if she touched Strauss in any way, she said “No, your honor.”

Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Richard Stephens countered that evidence compiled in the state’s investigation indicates Barnhart held Strauss down while the others beat him.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford told the court he hoped Silver would agree that Barnhart was the least culpable of the three charged in the robbery and take that into consideration at the sentencing hearing.

All three defendants are to be sentenced by Silver, who has discretion in sentencing as part of the plea agreements.

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

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. 

Silver noted during Monday’s hearing that Strauss is expected to attend the April 3 hearings. 

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