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Court adapts to pandemic, cases progress

Virus restrictions don’t stop justice

Despite COVID restrictions, court cases are still moving forward at the Washington County Courthouse.

Several cases, including those of Kendall Richards and Devin Lindsey, were completed this year, with others extending into the new year.

“Ones that are more complicated are being continued,” said Washington County Prosecutor Nicole Coil. “A lot was not (completed) because trials ceased after March and we’ve had one trial since then. There hasn’t been much since COVID.”

She said they’ve tried to keep cases moving forward and when possible, reach pleas, but all attorneys are very concerned and hesitant to hold trials in COVID circumstances.

“It’s going to be difficult to get a jury to be comfortable to come in and a lot of people won’t be able to come in because of the COVID,” she explained.

Although many cases were continued, “we resolved a decent amount of sexual battery cases,” said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor David Silwani.

Completed cases

¯ Kendall Richards, 50, of 1740 Forest Hills Drive, Vienna, was sentenced to eight years in prison in April for second-degree felony aggravated theft.

“His appeal is pending right now in the court of appeals,” Coil said. “He’s appealed but there’s been no decision.”

He pleaded guilty in April 2018 to stealing more than $1.2 million from a Marietta resident in 2016.

Along with his prison sentence, he was ordered to pay restitution of $1.398 million.

¯ Devin Lindsey, 26, of 408 Marion St., Marietta was sentenced in late February to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 10 years.

He pleaded guilty to one count of rape, a first-degree felony; one count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; one count of receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony; and one count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a third-degree felony.

He was a registered sex offender before the rape and unlawful sexual conduct charges, which stemmed from an arrest after two girls, one who was over the age of 13 and one who was under the age of 13, came forward to say they had been victimized by Lindsey.

The receiving stolen property charges stem from an arrest after he and others broke into the American Legion Post in Lowell, causing more than $55,000 in stolen property and damages.

Ongoing cases

¯ William Brice, 30, of 152 West Main St., Worthington, Pa., is scheduled for trial Jan. 19 in the courtroom of Washington County Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi.

Brice was alleged to have shaken his baby in August 2018. The baby, who is now 2 years old, is reliant upon glasses after permanent retinal damage from the alleged incident.

He was indicted on one count of felonious assault and one count of child endangerment, both second-degree felonies. He signed a no-contest plea agreement in November 2019 to reduce the charge to a third-degree felony of attempting to endanger a child.

In a separate case, he was indicted on four charges, including one count of telecommunications fraud, two counts of complicity in the commission of an offense, and one count of attempted grand theft, all fifth-degree felonies.

While incarcerated in early November at the Washington County Jail, he allegedly solicited his wife, Megan, to file a fraudulent loan application for $10,000 in COVID-19 relief benefits from the Small Business Administration for CB Logging Enterprises.

Coil said there is no such business as CB Logging Enterprises and Megan denied knowing anything about the loan application. As the loan application was filed in Pennsylvania, no local charges will be filed for Megan, Coil added.

¯ Richard Decker, 63, of 708 Front St. Apt. 14, Marietta, was arrested in December 2019 and charged with 20 counts of the first-degree rape of seven children from ages 5 to 17, and the second-degree felonious assault of a 7-year-old girl.

He was recently evaluated by the Forensic Diagnostic Center of District Nine which found he was mentally ill, suffering from symptoms of depression “due to the seriousness of the charges and the need for penalties that he faced.”

He was found competent to stand trial. He pleaded not guilty to all charges last January.

Coil said Decker’s attorney, Ray Smith, would like to break up victims in the case “because he thinks it would be more conducive in the COVID climate to have a trial that wouldn’t be as long.”

She anticipates if the victims were tried together, the trial would last about a month.

“There’s that many victims,” she said.

Coil said they were going to oppose that, as there would be an overlap of witnesses to a certain extent. She said it would be better to show a pattern of conduct as a whole to a jury to consider, since the method used is so similar.

During his arraignment, Kerenyi grouped the charges together according to the similarity of the crime or victim.

For rape counts 1-6, Decker faces up to life in prison and a fine of $20,000 per count.

For rape count 7, he faces three to 11 years in prison with a $20,000 fine. For rape counts 8-11, he faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years to life for each count, and a fine of $20,000 for each count. Count 12 is the second-degree felonious assault charge, for which he faces two to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Rape counts 13 and 14 have him facing life in prison for each count, plus a $20,000 fine for each. Rape counts 15-21 have him facing three to 11 years in prison for each count, plus a $20,000 fine for each count.

¯ Jimmy Lewis Miller Jr., 28, of 55 Spring Ave., Marietta, was arrested in December 2019 and was charged with endangering his stepdaughter after boiling water was poured on her.

During the investigation, he told the Washington County Sheriff’s Office that he had asked his 4-year-old son to wake up the girl the night of Dec. 13, 2019, by pouring water on her.

He said the boy mistakenly grabbed a pot of hot water unattended on the stove and poured that on the girl, rather than using cold water.

Those investigating the case said they aren’t sure who poured the water.

The girl had burns on 20 to 25 percent of her body and wasn’t taken for medical care until her mother returned home from work the next morning.

His trial was continued until April by his defense attorney, George Cosenza.

¯ Michael Anthony Dawson Jr., 31, of 101 Longacre St., Marietta was charged with the murder of his 2-month-old son, Gannon.

According to the sheriff’s office, deputies responded to a 911 call at Dawson’s home that an infant wasn’t breathing. Gannon was rushed to Marietta Memorial Hospital and was later flown to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus for treatment.

The boy succumbed to his injuries, which became the basis of a homicide investigation. While Gannon was at Marietta Memorial, doctors were concerned that the baby’s condition was caused by abuse.

Detectives were advised of bruising around the baby’s chin. After tests were done in Columbus, it was found Gannon had a skull fracture, a healing broken collar bone, seven or eight broken or fractured ribs that were in various stages of healing, and new and old hemorrhages that were consistent with being shaken.

It was also reported he had liver damage and bruising to his bowels.

Dawson faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

Coil said she still has not received autopsy results from Franklin County, so the case has been continued until May.

¯ Debra Davis, 57, of 130 Wilson Ave., Newport, was accused of grand theft of $138,942.49 from George Broughton, Broughton Commercial Properties LLC, and GWB Sales Inc.

Davis allegedly used credit cards belonging to the businesses for various personal reasons, including gambling, hotels, daycare for her grandchildren, Walmart expenses, and water bills for her house.

Coil said the conservative start date of the thefts was Jan. 1, 2015.

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