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Two Martinsburg men convicted of second-degree murder

June 18, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • James G. Cross and Thomas A. Grantham
File photos

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Berkeley County jury on Monday found James G. Cross Jr. and Thomas A. Grantham guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder and malicious assault in the stabbing death of one man and the serious wounding of another.

Cross, 33, and Grantham, 36, both of Martinsburg, were indicted on first-degree murder in the slaying of Andre Jackson, 21, of Hedgesville, W.Va., and the wounding of Jacques Taylor of Kearneysville, W.Va.

The jury deliberated 2 1/2 hours Friday afternoon and three hours Monday morning.

The attack occurred on Rock Cliff Drive in the early morning hours of April 23, 2011.

Cross stabbed Jackson to death while he sat in the passenger seat and Grantham wounded Taylor in the driver’s seat, according to testimony from eyewitnesses.

According to instructions given to the jury, the seven women and five men on the panel could have acquitted the defendants; found them guilty of first-degree murder without mercy, resulting in life without parole; found them guilty of first-degree murder with mercy, resulting in life with a chance for parole; or found them guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, malicious assault and conspiracy.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said second-degree murder carries a sentence of 10 to 40 years; attempted murder a sentence of three to 15 years; and malicious assault a sentence of two to 10 years.

Cross has two previous felony convictions, exposing him to the three-time loser rule, which could net him life in prison, she said.

Presiding 23rd Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes set a sentencing date for Aug. 27 at 1 p.m. Cross was out on bond; Grantham was in jail awaiting trial. Wilkes ordered both jailed Monday pending sentencing.

Teresa Wallace, Andre Jackson’s mother, sat through the trial with her husband, Jeffrey, and other relatives. “I’m grateful to God for this,” she said. “I prayed for first-degree. I would have liked to see a longer sentence. I’m glad for what the jury did.”

She said last week that Andre Jackson worked as a package handler for FedEx and played semi-pro football for a team in Chambersburg, Pa.

Wallace wore her son’s red jacket to court Monday in his memory.

According to testimony during the four-day trial, Cross and Grantham didn’t know Jackson and Taylor until they met that night at the Brickhouse Bar and Grill at 214 Midland Way. They exchanged words outside the bar when it closed at 3 a.m., continued their verbal argument while still in their vehicles at a nearby gas station, then ended up on Rock Cliff Drive near its intersection with Polo Green Drive.

Sisters Sheron and Shameka Yates and their friend, Sharenna Gonzalez, followed the men to Rock Cliff Drive to keep the men from fighting, according to their testimony. Sheron Yates testified that she knew Cross, but only met Grantham at the bar that night. None of the women knew the victims, according to their testimony.

They testified that they parked their vehicle between the cars driven by the men. Cross and Grantham walked to the victims’ vehicle and attacked them, the women said in court.

The attack occurred within 20 minutes of the time the four men left the parking lot of the bar, according to testimony. Other than the verbal altercation between the defendants and victims, a clear motive for the attack never surfaced during the trial.

The jury heard testimony from 18 state witnesses. The defense called one witness.

Attorney B. Craig Manford, Grantham’s court-appointed lawyer, said after the trial that he was “somewhat disappointed. The jury obviously put a lot into this.”

Christopher Prezioso was Cross’ court-appointed attorney.

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