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Prosecutor-elect to remove herself from Wilson trial

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

FAIRMONT -- The first-degree murder trial of Jared Wilson may end up being delayed even further because of a potential conflict with the incoming prosecuting attorney.

Wilson is one of two teens accused of brutally murdering a 26-year-old Grant Town man on July 4.

Although no orders have been filed in the circuit clerk's office, Circuit Judge Rodney Merrifield's secretary said Thursday that Merrifield has canceled the trial and decided to let Circuit Judge-elect David Janes handle further scheduling.

Wilson's trial originally was slated to begin Nov. 29 in Ohio County, but a lack of jurors in that county prompted the change.

Marion County Prosecuting Attorney G. Richard Bunner and Merrifield, neither of whom were re-elected, have been involved with the case from the beginning.

Prosecutor-elect Susan Riffle, a Fairmont attorney, said Friday that she will not prosecute the case since she shares office space with Rebecca Tate, co-counsel for David Parker, Wilson's co-defendant in the case. Although Tate is not defending Wilson, Riffle said she wanted to avoid any potential conflict and will request that a special prosecutor take over the case.

"It could result in a continuance," she said. "But the defendant has a right to be tried in the same term as he was indicted, so if the defendant doesn't waive that right, the case will have to go forward regardless."

Janes said he was prevented by the rules of judicial conduct from discussing an on-going case, but said it was possible that changing prosecutors at this point could cause a delay of several months while the new prosecutor becomes familiar with the case.

A hearing is set for 9 a.m. Monday in Marion County on several defense motions, including whether statements and confessions that Wilson and Parker gave to police the night of the alleged murder would be admitted as evidence.

At a previous hearing, Merrifield, without comment, approved defense requests for a change of venue. Parker's trial still is scheduled to begin Dec. 11 in Raleigh County with Merrifield presiding and Bunner prosecuting.

The teens are charged with beating and kicking to death Arthur C. "J.R." Warren Jr. in a Grant Town house and then running over him with a car to disguise the injuries as a hit-and-run.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com

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