Trial in sheriff's death moved to March
CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- Kanawha County prosecutors want more time to review a case against a man accused of fatally shooting Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum in April.
Kanawha prosecutor Mark Plants took over the case last month from former Mingo prosecutor Michael Sparks, who resigned after federal authorities named him in an alleged scheme to cover up evidence that Crum illegally received prescription pills from a convicted drug dealer.
A first-degree murder trial for Tennis Melvin Maynard, 38, is now set to begin on March 3 instead of early December. A pretrial motions hearing was also moved from today until Nov. 6.
Maynard is accused of shooting Crum at point-blank range on April 3, as the sheriff sat in his police cruiser in downtown Williamson. Maynard fled to Delbarton after the shooting, where police said 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, as well as fleeing and attempted murder for allegedly pointing a gun at Mines.
Cabell Circuit Judge Paul Farrell will preside over the trial in Williamson.
The trial had been set to begin Dec. 9, but prosecutors felt they needed more time to review evidence and interview witnesses, said Kanawha assistant prosecutor Fred Giggenbach on Monday. Richard Weston, Maynard's attorney, also agreed to move the trial date to the first week of March, he said.
Authorities have been mum on a possible motive to explain the slaying. Maynard's father and brother said that Crum had sexually assaulted Maynard as a teenager. Crum was Maynard's boxing coach when Maynard was 15.
The high-profile murder case has been overshadowed by what federal prosecutors say is an ongoing investigation into corruption in the county.
Sparks, who had been Mingo County's prosecutor since 2005, was charged with one count of deprivation of rights under the color of law. Sparks deprived convicted drug dealer George White of his rights while trying to cover up allegations that Crum illegally received prescription painkillers from White, according to the information filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steve Ruby and Haley Bunn.
White owned a sign shop in Delbarton and Crum allegedly owed him about $3,000 for election campaign materials. Instead of paying White, Crum had him arrested for selling drugs, prosecutors say.
White, with the help of lawyer Charles "Butch" West, then began giving information to federal agents about giving prescription pain medication to Crum, according to prosecutors.
When Crum found out, he allegedly approached other officials -- including Sparks and former county commissioner David Baisden -- who devised a scheme to keep White quiet. Federal prosecutors say Sparks and others told White's brother that, if White switched lawyers and stopped talking to federal investigators, he would get a lighter sentence.
Details of the conspiracy were first made public in a federal charge against former circuit judge Michael Thornsbury. Thornsbury was told about the scheme and agreed with it, the former judge admitted at his plea hearing earlier this month.
Thornsbury pleaded guilty to a felony -- conspiring to violate White's constitutional rights -- and resigned as judge.
Reach Travis Crum at email@example.com or 304-348-5163.