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Charges dropped against alleged lookout in 2007 shooting death of teen

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Prosecutors have agreed to drop a murder charge against one of the men believed to be involved in the 2007 shooting death of a Charleston teen on the city's East End.

Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants confirmed Monday evening -- just one day after the fifth anniversary of the shooting -- that the state will not pursue a murder charge against Marcus Dewayne Wesley because another man already admitted to being the triggerman in the death of Leland Chace Miller, 17.

In February, Michael Mandrell Johnson pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge and a judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

On Aug. 19, 2007, Miller was sitting on the steps of his home on Lewis Street when then 16-year-old Johnson, wearing a bandana on his face, allegedly approached from behind and shot him in the back. Miller tried to run, but was shot several times, according to investigators.

Police originally believed that Wesley acted as a lookout during the shooting. Plants said Monday that Johnson consistently denied that Wesley had any involvement in the killing and that another potential witness, whom he did not name, has since died.

"Once Michael Johnson admitted to the shooting, we had insufficient evidence to prosecute Marcus Wesley," Plants said. "If there is insufficient evidence to prove someone's guilty, or there's evidence to show that someone's not guilty, I expect my prosecutors to stand up and dismiss the case."

Authorities did not publicly identify Johnson until his indictment last year. The case, according to Plants, has been marred by a series of delays because of uncooperative witnesses that took a "no snitch" mentality with investigators.

Charleston Police Detective Jarl Taylor previously told the Gazette that police repeatedly received second-hand information that kept leading them back to Johnson, but were unable to corroborate the accounts.

After Miller's death, his parents, Bruce Miller and Betty Justice, and other family and friends, like Rev. Lloyd Hill, held vigils whenever the anniversary of Miller's death rolled around. They would meet outside the scene of the shooting at 1423 Lewis St. to remember the teenager.

Justice, Hill and Bruce Miller could not be immediately reached for comment Monday. 

Miller's murder is the second unsolved murder case that law enforcement agencies have closed this year.

Earlier this month, Shawn Thomas Lester pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge linked to Jeanie Patton, one of three people shot and killed with a scoped rifle outside of Kanawha County convenience stores in 2003.

Also, in 2010, Drew Bess, 28, and Hubert Lee Scruggs pleaded guilty to their involvement in the 2005 nightclub shooting of Brandon Greene. Bess pleaded guilty to conspiracy for urging Scruggs to get a gun and shoot Greene outside the Club Mystique nightclub in South Charleston.

Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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