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Hearing postponed for woman accused of selling heroin to man who died

Attorney says more review of professional conduct question needed

May 20, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Autumn T. Blaine
Autumn T. Blaine

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The pretrial hearing for a Bunker Hill, W.Va., woman accused of selling a lethal dose of heroin to a man who died at her home in March 2012 was postponed due to a question involving potential conflict of interest.

Autumn T. Blaine, 38, was indicted in October on single counts of felony murder and delivery of heroin in the death of Paul Dwayne Burcham, 32, also of Bunker Hill.

Defense attorney Kevin D. Mills, who has represented Blaine, told 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III on Monday that additional review of the professional conduct question raised by Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely is needed.

Games-Neely asked the court last month to disqualify Mills and his law firm associates from the case because the defense attorney previously represented the brother, mother and grandmother of the victim in previous criminal matters, according to court documents.

Games-Neely also noted in her motion that the brother of the victim is a witness in the pending felony murder case against Blaine and that all three relatives of the victim object to Mills’ involvement in the case.

“There are potential trial defenses that may occur that could involve one or more of the victim’s relatives appearing for the state,” Games-Neely said in her motion, which was filed April 29.

Mills said Monday an initial opinion by independent counsel Sherri Goodman suggested his continued participation in the case, but also added that an additional fact regarding Burcham still needed to be reviewed by Goodman.

Mills said Goodman is the former legal counsel for the State Bar and it was agreed that Goodman was the most appropriate person to review the professional conduct question.

Games-Neely’s disqualification motion also halted proceedings in a separate case that is pending against Blaine.

In February 2012, Blaine was indicted on single counts of uttering, conspiracy to commit uttering, burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary and petit larceny, according to court records. Those charges stem from a reported home invasion-style robbery at 1075 Sam Mason Road in October 2011, according to court documents.

In the murder case, Burcham was found slumped over the toilet in the master bedroom of Blaine’s home by authorities on the afternoon of March 29, 2012, police have said.

Burcham’s cause of death was determined to be due to “a large amount of morphine (heroin) in the victim’s blood, along with other nonprescribed narcotics,” according to court documents.

Upon finding Burcham in the bathroom, police also found one needle with a bloody tissue and a $20 bill on the sink, along with numerous hypodermic needles and several large spoons, court records stated.

Blaine’s trial for the felony murder case is set for July 23, according to court documents.

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