By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The Honorable Judge James Courrier presided over several criminal hearings on the recent Circuit Court docket in Tucker County. Emily Heckler and counsel Brent Easton and Jeremy Cooper appeared once more for a status hearing relating to her murder charges. She has been in custody since April 13 of 2018 for the alleged murder of her step- mother. Per her hearing in July, it was stated that insanity would not be an issue in the case, though now it may be involved. Just recently, Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora was handed a new expert statement claiming the insanity defense, which resulted in a request by the state to continue the trial due to the timeline.
Judge Courrier stated the request for a continuance would not be held against the state due to the timeline of the disclosure. The prosecution will advise lay people, such as the police officers, to not make testimonies based on believed mental status of Heckler. Both parties will also review the expert reports attempting to agree upon a redaction, or editing of text. If an agreement cannot be made, those concerns will be brought before the court. A new pretrial date has been set for 1:45 p.m. on November 17 with trial set for December 14 through 16.
Appearing on uttering charges was Hannah Adkins with her defense attorney Timothy Prentice. In return for a plea of guilty, LaMora agreed to drop the remaining charges and recommended the sentence of one to 10 years. Judge Courrier suspended the sentence to one year of probation with participation in the Day Report program and a fee of $225. Once all restitution is made, Adkins will be released.
Lester Mook is set for a jury trial on September 21 and 22 in the old Courthouse Courtroom. The criminal history of the witnesses was requested and granted and the polygraph information will be submitted to the court. The jury will also remain in the courtroom for their deliberation.
Attorney Phil Isner entered with his client, Kenneth Smith, on one charge of possession with intent to deliver and five counts of delivery of a controlled substance. The defense requested time to file a motion for a deferred adjudication, which LaMora opposed. The motion will be argued at their next hearing on October 13 at 11:15 a.m.
Kandice Sponaugle, alongside her counsel Morris Davis, appeared before the Judge on charges of uttering and delivery of a controlled substance. The defense requested Sponaugle be released from home confinement, to which LaMora quickly objected. Judge Courrier denied the motion, though stated it could be discussed at the next hearing. Davis then motioned to allow Sponaugle to relocate away from Parsons to be further away from “bad influences”. This motion was granted with no objections from LaMora. Sponaugle will return on November 17 at 3:15 p.m.
Dillon Waybright appeared via teleconference from the Tygarts Valley Regional Jail with his attorneys Morris Davis and James Hawkins in person. Waybright is detained on over 100 counts of child abuse resulting in injury. The defense counsel asked for a continuance due to being unaware of the issue of competency, to which Judge Courrier granted. A motion to reduce bond followed from Davis and Hawkins to modify the bond previously set for Waybright. LaMora objected on the grounds of the emotional toll it would take on the children involved, posing a risk to the community, Waybright being a flight risk, and the location he wanted to go for the bond. Judge Courrier denied the motion to modify the bond. Adjustments will also be made to the evaluation order to be changed to just an evaluation of criminal responsibility.
William Shaw III, indicted on three counts of counterfeiting, entered with his counsel, Timothy Gentilozzi. Frank Bush, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, represented the State of W.Va. in this case. Counsel informed Judge Courrier that a plea agreement is in process and a new hearing date was set for October 13.
Staci Casstevens, also represented by Gentilozzi, did not appear for her hearing relating to her two counts of uttering. A new hearing date was set for October 13.
For the second time, Josh Swisher failed to appear for his hearing and his defense attorney, Brent Easton, was unaware of his whereabouts. A capias was set by Judge Courrier for his arrest upon location and another hearing was scheduled for October 13 if located prior.
Appearing for uttering, Deanna Waybright entered the courtroom with her counsel, Hilary Bright. Due to the inability to reach a plea agreement, a trial has been set for November 2 with a pretrial hearing on October 13.
The final criminal case of the day was that of Darrel Spitznogle, incarcerated for one count of sexual assault in the first degree, and six counts of sexual abuse in the first degree. Defense Attorney Morris Davis requested more time and co-counsel on the case, which was granted by Judge Courrier. Spitznogle will return on October 13 for a status hearing.