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Sprague case turned over to grand jury

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

A Harrison County magistrate ruled Monday the state has demonstrated sufficient probable cause to turn over the case of an escapee from the Salem Industrial Home for Youth to a grand jury.

Joshua Dean Sprague, 20, appeared before Magistrate Tammy Marple in a continuation of a preliminary hearing for charges of escape, malicious assault and robbery.

The charges stem from a July 7 incident in which Sprague allegedly struck Corrections Officer Thomas R. Premo several times with a fire extinguisher, his fists and feet. Sprague allegedly took Premo's keys and left the facility.

Sprague was arrested about a month later in Covington, Ky., while attempting to conduct a Western Union transaction. He is in custody in Harrison County under $225,000 bond.

Harrison County Assistant Prosecutor Ramani Pillai called Premo, Senior Trooper D.L. Campbell of the State Police, another inmate and a unit manager at the home to testify. Defense Attorney John S. Folio argued Harrison County is the wrong venue for the case.

Premo testified he was reaching into a desk drawer to retrieve a container of throat spray for another inmate when he was struck in the head and fell to the floor.

"As I started to get up I saw an object coming. It hit me in the head and I went out," Premo said. "I came to and heard a resident yell, 'Sprague, he's getting up.' He (Sprague) picked up the fire extinguisher, picked it up over his head, and smashed me in the head with it."

Premo further testified Sprague struck him additional times with the fire extinguisher and his fists, and finally, with his feet.

"I followed him with my eyes and I think he saw me. He kicked me once and I turned my head. The second time, the light went out ... I'm thinking this whole process took half an hour, maybe more," Premo said.

Premo testified that the resulting injuries were extensive, requiring treatment at United Hospital Center, Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown and a hospital in Pittsburgh. He said he was treated for severe lacerations to the head and underwent neurosurgery to reconnect severed nerves and tendons in an index finger.

Roger King Jr. an inmate at the home, testified he saw at least part of the alleged attack.

"I witnessed Josh hitting him in the head," King said.

King answered "yes" when Pillai asked if Sprague was using the fire extinguisher. King further testified he saw Sprague strike Premo with his fists.

"I didn't see him (Sprague) take the keys, but he threw them to me," King said.

Folio argued the state constitution guarantees a defendant the right to be tried in the county in which an alleged offense took place, and questioned witnesses about whether police responses to incidents at the facility have involved Doddridge or Harrison County police officers.

"In this case, the state has failed to prove this took place in Harrison County ... the fact is one-half of the home is in Doddridge County," Folio said. "The fact of the matter is the portion where the incident took place is in Doddridge County. There has been no proof whatsoever this crime happened in Harrison County.

"This is the wrong forum in which to conduct this matter," Folio said. "The state could have brought in a surveyor but did not."

However, Marple ruled that state law provides for Harrison County jurisdiction over the youth home.

"It is located in Harrison County until someone shows otherwise," Marple said.

Marple also denied a bond reduction motion by Folio.

The next Harrison County grand jury will convene in January 2001, Marple said.

Staff Writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at sgainer@exponent-telegram.com.

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