By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Emily Heckler, charged with first-degree murder of Marion Heckler, the defendant’s step-mother, on April 13 of 2018, appeared via teleconference for what was intended to be a pre-trial hearing for a December trial. Her defense attorneys Brent Easton and Jeremy Cooper were present along with Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora.
The defense told The Honorable Judge James Courrier that one of their expert witnesses was involved in an accident and would be unable to attend the trial if held at the currently scheduled time. A request was made for a continuance, which LaMora stated, “If the state were in the same position, we’d be asking the same thing, we have no grounds for an objection.” LaMora did request to take into consideration that a new prosecutor for Tucker County will be taking office in early 2021 and would need adequate time to familiarize herself with the case before going to trial.
Judge Courrier stated that the witness could testify through other methods; however, due to the severity of the case felt it would be better for them to be present in person. LaMora also told the court that Heckler met with a doctor in late October and the report is still out on those findings. Ample time would be needed for both parties to review that report before going to trial. Judge Courrier set the pre-trial date on February 11 at 10 a.m. with the trial in Mineral County being held March 2, 3, and 4, 2021.
Lester Mook was set to appear before Judge Courrier for sentencing as a result of a jury finding him guilty of possession of a stolen vehicle. However, motions pertaining to his three counts of burglary of the second-degree and first-degree arson from 2016 were heard instead.
LaMora provided Defending Attorney Pat Nichols with a CD of all audio recordings from the jail to the other individuals, the audio statement provided from the confidential informant, and the burglary report. An investigation from the Fire Marshall was not conducted therefore there is no report on that matter, though any other notes from the fire department will also be provided to the counsel. LaMora stated there is also a video of the fire that will be made available to Nichols as soon as possible. “We are trying to get it as quick as we can,” said LaMora.
Nichols addressed the Judge with concerns over the wording on the indictments. LaMora verbally clarified the typographical error stating the first charge reads correctly and the second and third should mimic that wording. “The problem is the indictment is incorrect, the first one is (correct) and the others are not,” said Nichols. Mook was told he needed to go to the W.Va. State Police Barracks to be processed for a Court disposition Report after the hearing. Judge Courrier agreed to review the indictment and set Mook to return on December 11 at 3:30 p.m.
Steven Moore, former executive director of the Tucker County Landfill, was set to appear with his attorney, Aaron Yoho, relating to his charges of embezzlement and fraudulent schemes. Moore failed to appear and Judge Courrier asked Yoho if he knew where his client was. “I do not your Honor,” he replied. Yoho stated he sent an email to his client with no response and a letter to the agreed address with the court order and information for the hearing.
Steve Connelly, director of the fraud unit and attorney with the W.Va. Auditor’s Office is serving as a special prosecutor on the case. Connelly stated that Moore is supposed to be keeping in contact with his attorney and attend all hearings as part of his bond agreement. “I would move to issue a capias bench warrant and I would also make a motion to immediately revoke his bond,” proclaimed Connelly. Judge Courrier asked Yoho if he had a response to the motion, with Yoho saying, “There’s not much to say on the matter, I’m not sure where he is, to be honest.” Judge Courrier granted both motions made from the prosecution and set the next hearing date for December 11 at 1 p.m. if Moore is found by that time.
Tammy Mook, represented by defense attorney Easton, entered the courtroom for her first pre-trial hearing. Easton told Judge Courrier he was just given audio and other discovery before the hearing and expects motions to be filed on that behalf. He requested extending the pre-trial to the next available date. LaMora had no objections to the request stating the defense would be receiving at least two more items of discovery relevant to the case. T. Mook was told she needed to go to the W.Va. State Police Department to have a CDR filed to be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). This case will be heard again on January 11 at 11 a.m.
Easton also served as defense counsel for Richard Bernier Jr who was charged with one count of manufacturing a controlled substance (marijuana), which he wished to enter a plea on. LaMora suggested probation be assigned to Bernier, saying, “I think being able to put him on probation is going to be beneficial to everybody, I don’t believe it’s somebody that needs to be incarcerated.” Easton agreed and Judge Courrier went into the explanation of the court and plea process. He explained that if incarcerated, the penalty for this felony carries a one to five-year sentence.
Judge Courrier accepted Bernier’s plea of guilty on the charge and moved into sentencing which was requested be done at the same hearing. The one to five-year sentence was suspended for probation for three years with a $5 per month service fee paid by the defendant.
William Shaw III was arraigned on three counts of counterfeiting, along with his legal counsel Timothy Gentilozzi. The defense asked for an additional hearing to allow Shaw additional time to review his options regarding a plea agreement that was offered. Assistant Prosecutor Frank Bush represented the state, in this case, said he had no objections to the request. Judge Courrier approved the motion scheduling the next hearing for December 11 at 9:15 a.m.
Gentilozzi also represented Staci Casstevens failed to appear for a status hearing on two counts of uttering. After Gentilozzi and Casstevens spoke on the phone, Cassstevens told her counsel she would like to take the plea agreement and the reason for her absence was due to not having a ride to the courthouse. Judge Courrier set the plea hearing for December 11 at 9 a.m.
LaMora returned for the final hearing on the docket with Michael White, charged with two counts of worthless check writing and one count of issuing a worthless check. White submitted a plea of guilty to a single count of uttering. LaMora stated the recommendation from the prosecution is to place the defendant on probation for his crime versus the one to ten-year penalty. It was also stated that a CDR would be needed in this case.
Judge Courrier went through the felony procedures and the repercussions of such. After ensuring White was in understanding, Judge Courrier asked how he pled. White responded with, “Guilty, your Honor.” Restitution will be required of White to the Grant County Bank in the amount of $1,450 and probation to run concurrently with another charge.
Defense attorney Dan James, representing James Nelson on one count of first-degree arson, filed a request for a continuation. A date for their return has not yet been set.