By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
A man charged with the murders of four Harrison County men was arrested Friday morning in Marion County and arraigned Friday evening in the Marion County Magistrate Court.
Sidney Arthur Muller, 27, of 7003 Scenic View Drive, Fairmont, is believed to have shot and killed two men in a drug deal gone wrong before going on to shoot and kill a father and son delivering newspapers. He was charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
According to the criminal complaint, Muller went to the residence of Christopher A. Hart on Locust Avenue in Clarksburg around 4 a.m. to confront Hart and Todd Russell Amos about a large sum of money allegedly owed to Muller from past drug deals.
Conversation reportedly turned to argument, and Hart allegedly pulled a handgun, a 9mm Beretta, on Muller. Before it was fired, Muller is believed to have knocked the gun from Hart’s hand and picked it up himself.
Hart was shot in the right side of the head, while Amos was shot twice in the face, the complaint said. When police and deputy sheriffs arrived at the scene around 4:30 a.m., Amos was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hart was injured and died on the way to the hospital. The complaint says he “told his mother that he and Todd Amos had been shot by Muller for no reason” before succumbing to the gunshot wound.
After leaving the residence following the shooting, Muller reportedly encountered Freddy Donald Swiger, 70, and his 47-year-old son Fred Swiger, delivering newspapers for the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram, for which the two men had worked as contractors for more than 30 years according to Exponent-Telegram President Brian Jarvis.
Muller allegedly shot both men fatally at the scene.
“They were extremely nice, loyal, and cared very deeply about their customers,” Jarvis said in a statement released to the press. “Their customers cared very deeply about them from the calls already this morning. They built a connection with people that was unique and special in every regard.
“Although they were independent contractors, like many of our longtime carriers, they became part of the Exponent-Telegram family. We respect them and each of our carriers for getting the products we create to our customers in the middle of the night in rain, snow and sleet.”
Marion County Sheriff Joe Carpenter said he was contacted by Harrison County police with a “BOLO,” a law-enforcement term for “be on the lookout,” for Muller’s vehicle. It included a description of the suspect’s Buick Verano and a possible location, he said.
“The deputies saw and followed this vehicle and verified it,” Carpenter said. Deputies made a traffic stop on White Hall Boulevard near Wal-mart between 4:30 and 5 a.m. and arrested Muller for allegedly driving on a suspended license.
After the arrest, Muller was questioned by Harrison County authorities and reportedly confessed in an audio/video statement to drug transactions with Hart and Amos, as well as the murder of all four men.
Because Muller was arrested in Marion County, he was also arraigned in Marion County by Magistrate Cathy Reed-Vanata. Arresting officer Sgt. J.E. Webber and Detective P.D. Graeber of Harrison County law enforcement and Patrolman Adrian Hayhurst of the Fairmont Police Department accompanied Muller to the arraignment.
Reed-Vanata explained the charges Muller faced and asked if he understood them in addition to informing him of his rights and having legal paperwork signed. Throughout the arraignment, Muller spoke and responded clearly and audibly.
Muller told the magistrate court he was a full-time student receiving Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, but otherwise no income. He is recently divorced with two children under the age of 18.
Murder in the first-degree is a capital offense, and as such a magistrate is not permitted to set a bond regardless of financial circumstances, Reed-Vanata said. Only a circuit judge may be petitioned for a bond.
Muller requested a court-appointed attorney. When asked if he would like to exercise his right to a felony preliminary hearing, in which a prosecuting attorney must demonstrate they have enough evidence to present the case to a grand jury for indictment, he responded, “Whatever is fastest.”
He opted for the preliminary hearing.
Because the crime took place in Harrison County, Reed-Vanata said the preliminary hearing and all further legal proceedings will continue in Harrison County. In the majority of cases, she said, the circuit judge will not consider issuing a bond until after the preliminary hearing has taken place.
He is currently being held at North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County. The sentence for first-degree murder, if convicted, is life in prison for each count.