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Plea bargain in Warren murder?

by Vicki Smith

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MORGANTOWN -- A teen-ager set to stand trial next week in the murder of a gay black man will appear in court at 3 p.m. today for a hearing that was hastily scheduled late Wednesday.

Special Prosecutor Stephen Kenney would not say whether David Allen Parker will enter a plea in the death of Arthur "J.R." Warren, but he confirmed that a deal "is still a possibility."

"We have never closed that door," he said.

Defense attorney Stephen Fitz could not immediately be reached to comment. A telephone message left at his office earlier in the day was not returned.

Parker and a friend, Jared Wilson, are charged with beating and kicking Warren with steel-toed boots on July 4, 2000, then running over his body four times with a car.

Warren, 26, died of massive injuries as he lay in a dusty gravel pullout along a quiet Grant Town road, just a few miles from his home.

Both suspects were 17 at the time, but both are set to be tried as adults and could get life in prison without parole if convicted. Parker's trial is to begin Monday in Beckley, and Wilson is set to stand trial next month in Wheeling.

A plea bargain has always been a possibility, and so has the prospect of sentencing the teens as juveniles rather than adults. State law allows juveniles transferred to adult court to be sentenced as young offenders, although in practice, Kenney said that is rare for a murder case.

If Parker was convicted, "Would we agree to do it? Absolutely not," he said. "Would the defense ask for it? Probably."

The decision would lie with Circuit Judge David Janes, who is set to begin jury selection Monday if there is no plea bargain today.

Prosecutors believe Parker was angry the night of the killing because Warren had told others in their small Marion County neighborhood about a sexual relationship the two were having.

When Warren reportedly appeared at the vacant house Parker and Wilson were painting, the boys took $20 from him, and two arguments ensued. The second, which investigators say led to the beating, was about sex.

Wilson blames Parker for initiating the attack and contends he, too, would have been beaten if he hadn't briefly taken part.

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