By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
Darrell “Gene” Spitznogle was in the courtroom of the Honorable Judge J. Courrier to receive sentencing on his recent guilty verdict of one count of first-degree sexual assault and six counts of sexual abuse. The verdict was handed down by a jury that consisted of eight women and five men that decided the state had proved sufficient evidence to convict Spitznogle. Tucker County Prosecuting Attorney, Savannah Hull Wilkins, and co-counsel Assisting Prosecuting Attorney, Frank Bush, were in charge of providing the burden of guilt. Spitznogle’s defense team consisted of, public defenders, Morris Davis and Brent Easton.
In February of 2020 Spitznogle was formally charged with sexual assault and abuse after a juvenile male family member disclosed that he had been touched in inappropriate manners and was forced to touch the defendant. The juvenile was aged nine through 11 during the time of abuse. The abuse was said to have taken place at the Sawmill Lodge located in Davis, and on one occurrence in a hotel in Morgantown.
The juvenile had been displaying behavior issues at home and at school which lead to him being hospitalized at the Psychiatric Institute in Washington. The juvenile testified that during this stay he was heavily medicated and spoke the details of his abuse to the staff. The staff called in the Child Advocacy Center to conduct an interview. That interview was then turned over to the Tucker County Sheriff’s office on February 13, 2020. The juvenile male was 16 at the time of the interview.
The Tucker County Sheriff’s office brought Spitznogle in for questioning and during that interview Spitznogle denied having any sexual relations with the juvenile. According to the report prepared by the Sheriff’s office Spitznogle stated he had never touched the juvenile’s genitals, seen him naked or mistreated him in any way.
During the sentencing hearing Wilkins requested that Spitznogle receive the sentence of 50 to 150 years for the charge of first-degree sexual assault and 10 to 35 years for each count of first-degree sexual abuse. Wilkins asked the court to consider running those terms consecutively. Meaning the terms of the sentencing would run one after another without interruption. With Spitznogle being 57 at the current time he is facing a life sentence with these terms.
Wilkins argued that Spitznogle was a repeat offender who had only been released from 20 years in prison, on a prior sexual assault by a parent charge of a five- to eight-year-old female in Mon County, less than a year when he started sexually abusing the nine-year male juvenile in Davis. Wilkins also argued that Spitznogle showed no remorse, empathy, or accountability for his actions.
Wilkins presented evidence of recorded phone calls made by Spitznogle while in jail. On those recordings Spitznogle made several threats against the victim and his family. On one recording presented by Wilkins she stated that Spitznogle said, “I did not do a thing to that lying mother ****** but I will when I get out though you can believe that.” With that Wilkins said, “So, (the victim) is still not safe from Gene. His family is still not safe from Gene. That played a part in (the victim) moving over five hours aways so he (Spitznogle) does not know where he is or where he works. He (the victim) has started a new job since the trail. He had concerns he testified where he was working. The victim does not feel safe. In fact, no child is safe in the defendant’s release because Mr. Spitznogle is a predator. His main target is children who is some of the most vulnerable to our society and we have a duty to protect them.”
Wilkins presented the victim’s statement to the court, “There is no actual punishment that can give me back what Gene has taken from me. However, I feel he should receive the maximum and serve one at a time. Gene did these things to me separately and he should have to serve the time separately.”
Defense attorney Morris argued on the behalf of Spitznogle asking for mercy from the court when handing down the sentencing. Morris argued that with Spitznogle being 57 years old that he would be a very elderly man when he is eligible for parole when the sentence was run concurrently. That means all seven sentences would run at the same time coinciding with each other.
Morris stated that with the sentencing running concurrently Spitznogle would be allowed the hope of one day getting out and turning his life around before he is expired.
When Judge Courrier asked Spitznogle if there was anything he would like to say to the court Spitznogle said, “The only thing that I can say is I am innocent. He (the victim) came over and asked me one day what would someone have to do to get me locked up. I told him that all they had to say was that I touched them. He knows I did not get along with his dad. He said he feared for his life. No, he did not. The boy was always over asking me to take him to pick stuff up, take him for a ride, do this and do that. There is not nothing I can I do, might as well get the gallows out and hang me.
I was up there all that time, and I did not do anything wrong. I went to prison and took my GED and all kinds of classes in there to try to better myself.” Spitznogle’s last comment to the court was, “Might as well this get this over with so we can start the appeal process.”
After hearing arguments from both side Judge Courrier sentenced Spitznogle 50 to 150 years for the first-degree assault and 10 to 35 years for each of the six counts of sexual abuse per state code and recommendations from the pre-sentence report. Courrier also ordered those sentences to be run consecutively.
Courrier mentioned that Spitznogle does have the right to file for an appeal within 30 days as a couple of different motions including a resentencing reconsideration (Rule 35-B of the West Virginia state code.) motion within 120 days.
Courrier stated that key factors for his decisions was the lack of acknowledgement, empathy, or sympathy from Spitznogle and beyond the point of whether the action did or did not happen is no longer beyond reasonable doubt since a jury found him guilty of all charges. Although Spitznogle continues to claim his innocence, which is his right.