By Lawrence Messina
A man accused of gunning down a county sheriff in West Virginia was arraigned Wednesday on first-degree murder and other charges and plans to seek bail ahead of a possible Oct. 21 trial date.
With Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum’s widow, Rosie, staring intently from the courtroom’s front row, Tennis Melvin Maynard answered a handful of questions from Circuit Judge Paul Farrell during the six-minute hearing. Defense lawyer Richard Weston entered not-guilty pleas on behalf of the 37-year-old.
Maynard is accused of fatally shooting Crum on April 3 in a downtown Williamson parking lot, as the sheriff ate lunch in his police cruiser. Investigators say that after a brief vehicle chase, Maynard pulled a gun on a pursuing deputy who then shot and wounded the suspect.
Still recovering from those injuries, Maynard wore hospital garments along with shackles in the Cabell County courtroom.
While Farrell presides in that circuit, the Supreme Court has appointed him to preside over the Mingo County case.
“I believe the defendant can have a fair trial in Mingo County,” its elected prosecutor, Michael Sparks, said after Wednesday’s arraignment.
Weston, assigned along with Glen Conway as defense counsel, said Maynard had been in the hospital up until the hearing. He was taken afterward to the Western Regional Jail pending a bond hearing scheduled for June 17 in Huntington.
A Mingo County grand jury indicted Maynard last month on the murder count along with attempted first-degree murder and fleeing. Investigators have not discussed a possible motive behind the killing. Maynard’s father has said his son has mental health issues and was exposed to harmful chemicals and injured while working at an Alabama coal mine.
“We’re just starting to investigate,” Weston said of the defense’s emerging plans following the arraignment.
Crum, 59, had been a Mingo County magistrate for more than a decade when he stepped down to run successfully for sheriff last year. Even before he took that office in January, Crum had begun targeting drug problems in the county that mostly involve abused prescription pain pills.
Sparks on Wednesday echoed his earlier assessment that the sheriff’s slaying does not appear related to that crackdown, which included waves of raids and grand jury indictments.