The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 10, 2013

Portis bound to grand jury for Dalton murder

The case of a Beckley man charged with first-degree murder in the August shooting death of Debra Dalton will proceed to a grand jury, Raleigh County Magistrate Greg Tanner ruled Tuesday.

Public defender John Mize represented Aaron Portis, 38, who was charged Aug. 31.

Mize asked Tanner to dismiss the charges against Portis, arguing that Raleigh County assistant prosecutor Pat Lamp and West Virginia State Police had not presented a motive, a weapon or enough physical evidence to link Portis to the crime.

Dalton’s body was discovered Aug. 19 at an unoccupied home in Harper Heights. She had been shot twice and her body positioned underneath her Jeep.

According to testimony presented at the hearing, Portis told police on the day of his arrest that he and a second man had been “riding around” with Dalton, 51, of Lanark, in her Jeep from 8 or 9 p.m. and “smoking.”

The Jeep had been stopped on the Lanark property when Portis said he heard shots and “took off running,” according to testimony from Trooper First Class J.J. Martin.

Portis then called a male friend around 1 a.m. on Aug. 19 to ask for a ride, Martin said.

According to testimony, when the man picked Portis up, Portis drove a truck belonging to the man’s company because the man did not have a driver’s license.

The friend verified that Portis had called him early Aug. 19 to give him a ride, Martin said.

Portis reportedly told the man that he needed a ride because he had been involved in a sexual encounter, but he did not state the identity of his partner, Martin testified.

Dalton’s blood was discovered on the driver’s side of the truck Portis was driving, although Portis had denied having contact with her after the shooting, Martin testified.

He also testified that the man Portis identified as the shooter was spotted on surveillance video at a Beckley gas station around 11:50 p.m.

Mize argued that no gunshot residue tests were performed on the steering wheel or Portis, that no weapon has been discovered, that a search by police of Portis’ home did not show any evidence of Portis having committed a murder.

Mize also asked Tanner to dismiss charges on the grounds that Portis had been jailed beyond the 10 days allowed by law for a preliminary hearing, if weekends were counted, and that Portis had been erroneously informed that he must be arraigned in circuit court.

Tanner said paperwork indicated that Portis had been legally arraigned and ruled that there was enough evidence to proceed to a grand jury.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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