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Mingo prosecutor steps down from sheriff murder case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks wants a special prosecutor to take over the trial of Tennis Maynard, who is accused of gunning down the county's sheriff.

Sparks said Wednesday that there was "an emerging conflict of interest" in the case that prompted his recusal.

"It would be inappropriate for me to discuss the actual facts and circumstances," Sparks said.

Police believe Maynard, 33, of Delbarton, shot Sheriff Eugene Crum on April 3, as the sheriff sat in his police cruiser in downtown Williamson.

Maynard fled to Delbarton after the shooting, where police say he pointed a gun at Mingo Sheriff's Deputy Norman Mines. Mines opened fire, hitting Maynard several times.

Maynard is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and fleeing with reckless indifference. His trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 9.

Sparks released a statement Wednesday saying he recently "became privy to information that would materially limit [his] responsibilities in the Maynard case if [he] complies with [his] duty to make timely disclosure to the defense and tribunal of all unprivileged mitigating information in other cases."

Philip Morrison, executive director of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute, said Wednesday afternoon that he had not yet received a request from Sparks to appoint a special prosecutor.

An employee in the Mingo County Circuit Clerk's Office said a motion asking for the recusal, which a judge must sign, is "in the works."

Richard Weston, Maynard's attorney, said Sparks called him Tuesday night and told him that he was asking to be taken off the Maynard case.

Sparks had worked with Crum in a prescription-pill crackdown known as "Operation Zero Tolerance." Sparks later said that Crum's slaying is not connected to drugs but did not speculate on a possible motive.

Maynard's father and brother said after a hearing last month that Crum sexually assaulted Maynard as a teenager. Sparks said he appointed investigators to look into those allegations and that they found no evidence to support that allegation.

As part of the disclosure for Maynard's trial, Sparks previously disclosed a West Virginia State Police investigation into allegations that Crum sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman in 2002. According to the investigation report obtained by the Gazette, Crum -- who was Delbarton police chief at the time -- said the sex was consensual, and a State Police trooper came to the same conclusion.

Hours after the encounter, the woman went to a hospital and complained of injuries related to a sexual assault. Police noted that her blood alcohol content was approximately four times the legal limit at that time in West Virginia.

Crum was not charged in connection with that investigation.

Staff writer Travis Crum contributed to this report.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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