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Judge rejects plea deal in Goble murder case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County judge on Wednesday rejected a tentative plea agreement in the case of Charles Eugene March, who authorities say strangled his co-worker and buried her in the back yard of his Chesapeake property.

Despite a soft objection from the frail March, whom sheriff deputies pushed into the courtroom in a wheelchair, Circuit Judge Duke Bloom noted that forensic and psychological tests have not yet been completed and pushed the date of the trial to Dec. 26.

"I'm fine," March, 60, told the judge during the hearing. "I'd just like to have this over with if possible."

March's son, who was attempting to fill a sinkhole behind his father's trailer at 12736 Ohio Ave. in Chesapeake, found Kathy Goble's remains in late April. March was arrested that day and later indicted on charges of first-degree murder and concealment of a body.

It wasn't clear what charges March would have admitted to as part of Wednesday's plea deal. Bloom issued a gag order on the parties in the case earlier this year, so prosecutors could not comment.

March's attorney, Richard Holicker, told the judge that he did not agree with his client's decision to enter the plea. Medical examiners have not yet completed Goble's autopsy and prosecutors have not received the results of a forensic evaluation.

March, also against his lawyer's advice, backed out of a psychiatric exam, which would have determined whether he is competent to stand trial.

In August, jail officials said March tried to kill himself by climbing on a railing in a South Central Regional Jail pod and falling backward about 15 feet to the concrete floor. He was treated and released from CAMC General Hospital.

The incident spurred Holicker to request the psychiatric evaluation a week later. During that hearing, Bloom also granted the gag order based on fears that police and prosecutors were releasing prejudicial information about the case to the media.

Holicker, speaking of Wednesday's plea, said that he has "worked hard to dissuade [March] from this course of action," and that he was uncomfortable moving ahead with the agreement.

Bloom said that he recognized Holicker is a competent attorney, but decided to appoint an additional lawyer to represent March for a second opinion on whether proceeding with a plea agreement later this month would be in March's best interest.

Holicker objected to the judge moving the original trial date, which was set for Dec. 10 and asked the judge to dismiss the case in light of the late forensic results. The suggestion caused a bristling among Goble's family members and prompted a deputy to warn one man to quiet down.

Billy Herrald, a Goble family friend and spokesman, said after the hearing that Holicker's request to have the charges dropped was "upsetting," but not totally unexpected.

"Of course that's absurd," he said. "But we understand that's his job."

Herrald also said the family expected the judge to reject Wednesday's plea based on the incomplete evidence. He said the family just wants to put the case in the past.

"This isn't a surprise," he said," but it's a little bit of a disappointment."

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


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