By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Tucker County Circuit Court has had a fair share of hearings and trials in the past several weeks. On July 30, Britni Ball was sentenced after she plead guilty to third offense shoplifting, a felony. Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora requested the maximum penalty for the crime of one to three years’ incarceration. The defense recommended the sentence be on home confinement, therefore the Honorable Judge Lynn Nelson honored both. Ball was sentenced to serve 120 days incarcerated, followed by eight months on house arrest and then three years probation. She is also required to pay full restitution to both facilities stolen from.
In early August, the Honorable Judge James Courrier presided over the hearings including that of James Waybright. He was indicted for failure to register as a sex offender, to which he pleaded guilty. The penalty of one to five year’s incarceration was suspended for three years probation.
Jason White, held on charges, including murder, is still awaiting results from the expert analysts. A five day trial was set for May though has been continued since. Tammy Mook, charged with several counts including burglary and larceny, had her trial postponed due to health issues and is in the process of being rescheduled. Charles Wolfe took a plea agreement of guilty to strangulation, entering without breaking, and third offense domestic battery, all three felonies, and is awaiting sentencing. Lester Mook is awaiting re-indictment at the next grand jury due to a typographical error on the indictment documents. Tracey Elza, charged with prescription fraud and uttering, is also awaiting another status hearing to continue her case.
Mid August produced Judge Courrier accepting a plea agreement from Tonia Armstrong. She pleaded guilty with a deferred adjudication contingency. Armstrong pleaded to a felony of malicious wounding, though they will hold the plea for three years while she is on probation. If no issues occur while on probation, the charge will be dropped to a misdemeanor of domestic battery. During probation, Armstrong must comply with all aspects of the Community Corrections program, including alcohol screening and anger management classes.
David Phillips, charged with sexual assault and soliciting, had a two day trial earlier this month. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Phillips not guilty of these charges and they were dismissed. The same week, Judge Courrier took a guilty plea from Dustin Moran for one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine while having one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana dropped. LaMora requested the maximum sentence of one to five year’s incarceration to be run consecutive to his charges in Randolph County, though the defense requested it be concurrent. The judge agreed with LaMora that Moran has become a major player in drug distribution quickly and agreed to keep him incarcerated as long as possible, therefore the sentencing will be ran consecutively.
Emily Heckler also appeared before Judge Courrier, indicted on murder charges. The defense attorney requested several motions, including bifurcation of the murder trial and mercy trial. It was explained that with a first degree murder charge, the defendant can be charged with the charge with or without mercy. If mercy is granted, they will have a chance of parole at some point of their sentence. If mercy is not granted, they will never be eligible for parole. Though LaMora objected, Judge Courrier granted this motion and the two trials will be bifurcated. Defense also made a motion regarding discovery on a previous charge of indecent exposure, as well as a request for Heckler to wear civilian attire during the trial, both of which were granted without objection. Heckler’s defense attorney also requested a change of venue for the trial, though LaMora intends to object to this motion. Defense also made a motion to exclude crime scene photos, though both attorneys agreed to review the photos concurrently and agree upon those to be included and excluded in the trial, and the judge will have rule over ones that cannot be agreed upon.
During this status hearing, it also served as a partial suppression hearing with Sergeant C.T. Teter and former WV State Police Corporal J.K. Kopec. They testified regarding the arrest process and procedure as well as their professional opinion on her diminished capacity, though both felt she was competent. Heckler will reappear on November 14 at 11 a.m. for a motion hearing.
Kelsie Hebb also pleaded guilty to three counts of possession with intent to deliver that the prosecution request to run all three concurrently, making a one to five year sentence a three to fifteen years incarceration. The defense argued Hebb has been working on sobriety and her recovery coach testified to this affect along with her grandfather. Judge Courrier decided to sentence Hebb to five years probation; however there are stipulations that could result in incarceration.
There has been a halt on the Timberline cases due to the federal bankruptcy filing. Nothing can be done further until these federal cases are settled. A closed grand jury will commence on October 1, 2019 with arraignments scheduled for October 7.