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Alford plea entered for Falling Waters man accused of shooting W.Va. couple

February 15, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Falling Waters, W.Va., man accused of shooting a couple twice in the head at their home in November 2009 entered an Alford plea Friday to two counts of second-degree attempted murder and two counts of malicious assault.

Donald Mark “Donnie” Seibert Jr., 24, faces a sentence of six to 26 years in prison, according to the terms of a plea agreement reached between Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Timothy D. Helman and Seibert’s attorney, Matthew Harvey.

Two counts of malicious assault, along with single counts of grand larceny and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance in other pending cases were dismissed Friday by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder, who accepted the plea agreement and scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 11.

Seibert could be ordered to serve a one- to three-year sentence for each attempted murder conviction and a two- to 10-year sentence for each malicious assault conviction, Helman said.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt, but acknowledges the prosecution has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

Seibert was accused of shooting Robert and Laura Hicks twice in the head at their home at 2649 McCoys Ferry Road in Brookstone subdivision in Berkeley County on Nov. 27, 2009.

Helman told the court Friday that the state could prove that Seibert shot the couple in the head with a .22 caliber handgun after he went to the couple’s home to buy Oxycodone pills.

The plea agreement averted a second trial being held for Seibert’s case, which was scheduled to begin Tuesday. 

A mistrial was declared in Seibert’s first trial in September 2011 after the jury deliberated for more than three hours and had reached a verdict. A juror told the court that a woman directed what appeared to be an obscene gesture toward her in the Berkeley County Judicial Center parking lot. Then 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh had ruled that the court couldn’t be certain the incident didn’t weigh on the juror’s mind while deliberating the case.

After the plea hearing Friday, Helman said the repeated lack of cooperation by the victims, including their failure to attend a scheduled pre-trial meeting a few hours earlier, factored into the decision to enter the plea agreement.

The grand larceny charge involved the theft of firearms belonging to Seibert’s father, who did not wish to pursue further prosecution, according to Helman. The state had intended to use the drug-related allegation as evidence of another bad act in the attempted murder case, Helman said.

Aside from the victim’s lack of cooperation, the plea agreement also voided a potential appellate issue related to former Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher McCulley’s theft of Oxycodone pills that were seized by Sheriff’s deputies in the shooting investigation, Helman said. McCulley pleaded no contest to one count of petit larceny in connection with the pill theft allegations in February 2011 after resigning from the department the fall of 2010.

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