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Autopsy photographs barred from trial of Virginia man in deaths of Berkeley County woman, son

June 22, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Antonio Prophet is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson in the deaths of Angela Kay Devonshire and her son, Andre White.
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Jurors in the trial of a Virginia man charged in the 2010 deaths of a Berkeley County woman and her young son won’t be shown autopsy photographs of the victims, but potentially damaging testimony from a witness will be allowed, a judge ruled Friday.

In a pretrial hearing for Antonio Prophet, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes barred the photos unless they are needed for some reason in cross-examination, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said after the proceeding.

Prophet, 36, of Lorton, Va., was indicted in February 2011 on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson in the deaths of Angela Kay Devonshire, 22, and Andre White, 3, of Bunker Hill W.Va.

Prophet’s trial is scheduled to begin July 10 in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Prophet is accused of slitting Angela Devonshire’s throat in her apartment off Sam Mason Road on June 6, 2010 and then setting it on fire, court records said.

Both Devonshire and her son died before the fire, Games-Neely said. The fire originated in the living room of the residence, and it appeared that both victims fell through the floor of the garage apartment as it burned, the records said.

An autopsy of the boy revealed blunt force trauma to his body, Games-Neely said.

While the photographs were excluded, Wilkes ruled that testimony by Joseph E. Medina, who was a friend of Prophet’s at the time of the alleged offense, would be allowed.

Medina told police last month that Prophet admitted to killing Devonshire because “she was digging in his pockets taking money” from him, according to court documents filed this week.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford asked the judge to exclude Medina’s testimony, asserting that the prosecution knows or has reason to believe the witness’ testimony is false.

Medina, who is incarcerated, gave three statements to police, according to Games-Neely.

Wilkes ruled Friday that the credibility of Medina’s testimony is a question for the jury to decide and said defense counsel could challenge his truthfulness during the trial.

Medina in a recorded statement on May 9, 2012, told Berkeley County Sheriff’s Lt. Gary Harmison that he “didn’t tell the whole truth about text messages and phone calls” in a previous interview with the investigating officer, according to court documents.

Medina told Harmison that Prophet actually admitted to killing Devonshire in a phone call, the court documents said.

Citing transcripts of the interviews in his motion, Manford said Medina told police on June 23, 2010, in earlier recorded statement that he received a text message from Prophet the morning of the alleged offense that indicated he was “in a situation” and “needed help.”

Manford argued that Medina’s most recent revelation only came after Wilkes rejected Medina’s plea in a burglary/grand larceny case and revoked his bond.

Medina, who was indicted in May 2011, agreed to plead guilty in January to one count of grand larceny as part of a plea agreement, court documents said.

Under the plea agreement, the defendant also was to testify truthfully at Prophet’s trial, and his testimony was to be consistent with statements he previously gave to police.

Wilkes rejected the binding plea in April after the court was informed that Medina tested positive for marijuana, the documents said.

Wilkes also all ruled Friday that evidence of Prophet’s flight from West Virginia to North Carolina after the victims were killed could be presented at trial over the objection of defense attorney Christopher J. Prezioso, who is serving as co-counsel in the case.

Prophet was captured June 17, 2010, outside a homeless shelter in Charlotte, N.C., police have said.

At the time of his arrest, Prophet had aliases of Antonio McCreary and James Carter. Manford told Wilkes that the defendant sought medical treatment two days after the alleged offense under an assumed name.

“We can’t get him to sign a release (for the medical records) under an assumed name,” Manford said.

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