Jury seated in trial of Va. man charged in fatal Martinsburg-area shooting

Jurors told trial of Jonathan Bennett, accused in 2001 slaying at Suncrest Apartments, is expected to continue into next week

January 09, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Jonathan Frederick Bennett
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A jury of eight women and four men were sworn in at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday for the trial of a Virginia man charged in the March 2011 shooting death of another man at a Martinsburg-area apartment building.

Jonathan Frederick Bennett, 41, of Charlottesville, Va., was indicted in October 2011 on single counts of murder, felony murder, conspiracy, malicious assault, assault during the commission of a felony and three counts of first-degree attempted robbery.

Bennett is charged in the March 6, 2011, death of Geronimo Garcia-Cruz, 26, of Winchester, Va., whose body was found in a stairwell of Suncrest Apartments near Martinsburg.

Jurors were told by presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes to expect the trial to continue into next week.

Bennett, at his pretrial hearing Monday, confirmed that he declined the state’s offer to enter guilty pleas to second-degree murder and malicious wounding. He would have been ordered to serve prison terms of 40 years and two to 10 years consecutively under the terms of the proposed plea, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely has said. 

Bennett is accused of shooting Garcia-Cruz in the second-floor apartment of Ashley Nicole Carpegna, a dancer that Garcia-Cruz met hours earlier at the club where she worked.

Carpegna, 28, had taken Garcia-Cruz and his companions to her apartment and at least one of the men expected to have sex in exchange for paying her money, defense attorney B. Craig Manford and Games-Neely agreed at Bennett’s pretrial hearing.

Carpegna, who was charged as an accessory after the fact to murder, agreed to plead guilty to the charge as part of a plea agreement last year, but she isn’t slated to return to court until after Bennett’s trial, according to court documents.

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