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Lawyer facing suspension among candidates for Lincoln seat

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An assistant state attorney general whose law license may be suspended is among three candidates Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has been asked to consider for filling the unexpired term of Lincoln County Delegate Josh Stowers.

Stowers, a Democrat, recently resigned his 22nd District delegate seat and a position with the Kanawha County school system to take a job as deputy to State Treasurer John Perdue.

On Thursday, the 22nd Delegate District Executive Committee met to pick nominees to fill the remaining 17 months of Stowers' unexpired term. Three names were to be sent to Tomblin, who will appoint Stowers' successor.

Committee members picked Danville Town Manager Josh Barker, Lincoln County school board member Gary McCallister and Assistant State Attorney General Wendy Elswick to recommend to Tomblin.

In February, the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel released a 45-page finding that asks the state Supreme Court to suspend Wendy Elswick's law license for allegedly hiding evidence in a convicted murderer's appeal while she was serving as a Kanawha County public defender in the early and mid-2000s. The Supreme Court has a hearing scheduled for September.

Elswick, wife of Lincoln County Family Court Judge Scott Elswick, works at the state Department of Health and Human Resources for Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. She did not immediately return a telephone call on Friday.

Elswick represented Dana December Smith in an appeal of Smith's 1992 conviction for stabbing two women to death in Leewood.

In his appeal, Elswick argued that the crimes were really committed by Tommy Lee Sells, a Texas drifter who spent time in West Virginia about the same time the two women were killed. In 2004, Sells told a reporter for the television show "48 Hours" that he had committed the murders.

Elswick was then assigned to Smith's appeal, and went to Texas to interview Sells, who was on death row. Elswick allegedly hid evidence that Smith and Sells had known one another, allegedly covering up notes and letters that proved otherwise.

According to court documents, Elswick and Sells also developed a suggestive pen-pal relationship that allegedly hurt Smith's chances at appeal. Elswick asked to be taken off Smith's case in 2005.

Tina Stinson, a spokeswoman for Tomblin, said the governor had received Lincoln County's recommendations on Friday, and will have five days to appoint Stowers' replacement. She said he would "do his due diligence" before making the decision.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.

 


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