Accused mall purse snatcher in court

PARKERSBURG – The man whose purse-snatching set off a chain of events that led to the death of his alleged accomplice last week was arrested on misdemeanor charges Tuesday.

John David Ragalyi, 27, whose home address is now listed as 370 Danas Run Road, Newport, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Wood County Magistrate Court on one count of petit larceny and one count of fleeing on foot, one week after Steven Lewis Pfalzgraf, 24, of Parkersburg was shot and killed by Parkersburg Police Detective P.M. Edelen outside the Grand Central Mall.

“We do have evidence to suggest that Pfalzgraf did conspire with (John) Ragalyi to steal the purse,” West Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. B.S. Snodgrass said Tuesday.

Witnesses saw the men whispering to each other shortly before Ragalyi grabbed the purse, Snodgrass said. Pfalzgraf held the door as Ragalyi ran outside.

“When they bust outside, they were both running,” Snodgrass said.

According to the criminal complaint filed with the court, Ragalyi grabbed a Vienna woman’s purse while it was sitting on a chair in the food court. As the woman screamed that her purse had been stolen, some area law enforcement officers at the mall participating in a training exercise gave chase, identifying themselves as police and ordering him to stop, the complaint says.

Both men ran to Pfalzgraf’s car in which Ragalyi’s wife, Jenna, was already seated in the back, Snodgrass said.

After Pfalzgraf got in the driver’s seat, Parkersburg Police Detective J.M. Stalnaker reached through the window to remove the keys from the ignition. Pfalzgraf then reportedly started driving with the detective hanging onto the vehicle. After Stalnaker freed himself, Pfalzgraf turned and drove the vehicle toward Edelen, State Police have said.

At that point, Edelen fired multiple times at the vehicle.

The car continued into the Toys “R” Us parking lot. The Ragalyis fled but later turned themselves in to police.

No charges are expected to be filed against Jenna Ragalyi, Snodgrass said. The investigation indicates John Ragalyi and Pfalzgraf planned to steal the purse without Jenna Ragalyi’s knowledge.

“Right now, the way it stands, there’s nothing to charge her with,” Snodgrass said.

The Ragalyis were at the mall with Pfalzgraf to apply for jobs, he said.

During Tuesday’s arraignment, John Ragalyi only spoke with Magistrate Robin Waters about technical details of his charges and subsequent court proceedings. In writing, he waived his right to an attorney.

State Police Sgt. J.E. Stout, who brought Ragalyi to the arraignment, said the man does not intend to fight the charges.

“He’s owning his responsibility and is wanting to enter a guilty plea,” Stout said. “There is some sincerity in his statements and in his thought process. … It’s just a sad series of events, because none of it had to happen.”

Ragalyi’s bond was set at $10,000, $5,000 for each misdemeanor charge, and he was ordered to stay off the Grand Central Mall premises. He faces up to a year’s incarceration on each count.

No force was used in the robbery, Stout said, and the value of the purse and its contents were less than $1,000, according to the report.

State Police obtained the warrants for Ragalyi’s arrest Tuesday morning, and Ragalyi turned himself in at the detachment on West Virginia 47. Lt. Michael Baylous said investigators collaborated with the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office to determine what charges would be filed.

“We’re doing our due diligence and making sure that we’re doing it correctly,” Baylous said.

The Parkersburg detachment is investigating the theft, while the State Police’s Professional Standards Section is looking into the shooting. That investigation is ongoing.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin has said everything he’s heard out of the investigation leads him to believe his officers acted appropriately under department policy.

Edelen is still on administrative duty, while Stalnaker has been cleared for regular duty, Martin said.