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Harrison jury finds Salem man guilty of battery, sexual assault

by Paul Leakan

STAFF WRITER

After almost 12 hours of deliberation over two days, a Harrison County jury on Thursday found a Salem man guilty of battery and sexual assault of his spouse. The jury, however, also found James H. Kearns innocent of attempted first-degree murder.

This was the first of two trials for Kearns, who also is accused of smothering a 77-year-old Salem woman and then stealing a gun and her car. Kearns will stand trial April 3 and is charged with numerous counts, including first-degree murder.

Sentencing for the first two convictions is set for 2 p.m. on May 2 before Harrison County Circuit Judge John Marks.

Police say Kearns killed Dorothea Moses, 77, and then stole a gun from her home and used her car to drive to the Shinnston area where he broke into his ex-wife's home, threatened and sexually assaulted her.

Kearns was arrested by West Virginia State Police last year and charged with several misdemeanor and felony counts in connection with the two incidents.

During the first trial held this week in Harrison County Circuit Court, Kearns' ex-wife testified about the assault.

She testified that Kearns entered her home on March 31, 1999, assaulted and fought with her for about three hours before she escaped.

Kearns will remain in the custody of the Harrison County Correctional Center until the second trial.

Assistant Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Frye declined to comment pending the outcome of the second trial.

Staff Writer Paul Darst contributed to this story.

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