The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


February 13, 2012

Several sentenced in circuit court

BECKLEY — Three men were sentenced Friday before Raleigh County Circuit Judge Robert A. Burnside Jr.

Zachary Mitchem, 26, of Oak Hill, pleaded guilty to delivering a controlled substance, but his attorney, Caitlin Gossett, asked that he be placed on probation.

Gossett asked that the judge consider that Mitchem has served in the Army for approximately three years, he has done well at his job which he has held for two and a half months, and he is actively trying to combat his drug addiction.

Gossett said Mitchem has placed himself on a waiting list at five different 90-day in-patient drug rehabilitation programs and has been attending AA meetings since those programs have been full.

“I do believe that Mr. Mitchem deserves an opportunity to be on probation and have an opportunity to get help for his addiction,” Gossett said.

Burnside asked Mitchem how he got involved with drugs, to which he replied, “Money troubles. I couldn’t find a job right away.”

He said he had been fighting alcoholism since he was in the military.

With everything taken into consideration, Burnside ordered a suspended sentence of not less than one to 15 years, then suspended it to three years’ probation.


In the second case, Teddy Schmelter, 36, of Cool Ridge, was sentenced for his guilty plea to conspiracy to commit burglary. He has faced felony charges in the past, according to his attorney, Chris Lefler, most of which were driving-related.

He said Schmelter has taken his GED and has secured a job at a local mine, working hard to take care of his wife and three children.

“I think he was sincere when he told me his life was going to change,” Lefler said.

Burnside asked Schmelter how exactly he has changed. Schmelter replied he had been on heroin and other drugs, but is no longer addicted.

Burnside asked him if he had sought counseling or any type of rehabilitation program. Schmelter said he had not, but simply, “Jail did a number of things for me.”

He said thinking of his family and what he has done in the past led him to change his life and break his addiction.

Burnside suspended Schmelter’s sentence of one to five years, giving him probation for two years. He advised Schmelter to listen to his probation officer and adhere to any suggestions pertaining to counseling or rehabilitation services.


In the third case, Randall Jack Hampton, 42, of Midway, had pleaded guilty to failure to provide proper sex offender registration.

His attorney, Michael Fro-ble, said Hampton’s probation was revoked in the past because of failure to register as a sex offender in a timely manner; therefore, he is ineligible for probation in this case. However, Froble sought house arrest or some type of alternate sentencing for his client.

Froble told Burnside that Hampton has abuse and neglect charges still pending in front of Raleigh County Judge John Hutchison. Issues have also arisen with the mother of Hampton’s children, who face the possibility of being placed in foster care.

Assistant prosecuting attorney Andy Dimlich asked that the court oppose the possibility of home confinement due to the defendant’s past history. “How many chances do you get?” Dimlich asked.

Hampton was given a chance to speak and said, “The court has been more than fair with me.”

He said he has been incarcerated many times and during the course of all that time, he said, “I lost more than I ever thought I would.”

Hampton had previously served as a volunteer firefighter, but due to his being a convicted felon, he was no longer permitted to volunteer.

“I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, that I don’t disagree with, but when it starts costing more than I know what to do with, it’s time to change something,” Hampton said.

Burnside said, “The function of these registration requirements for convicted sexual offenders is the protection of potential future victims.” He said that protection is enhanced by keeping information correct and updated.

“If you maintain proper compliance with registration, then the danger that you channel to future victims is diminished,” Burnside said.

After consideration, Burnside sentenced Hampton to two sentences of one to five years to be served concurrently, but he will reconvene court Feb. 22 to hear a plan for home confinement. “I will consider it if you come up with a good plan.”


Judge John A. Hutchison also delivered several sentences Friday.

James A. Vannatter, 40, of Beckley, had pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery for entering a video lottery establishment Dec. 1, 2009, and brandishing a handgun at the clerk on duty. He bound the clerk and stole an undisclosed amount of money.

Hutchison sentenced Vannatter to serve 10 years.

Michael Scott Linkous, 22, of Coal City had entered a guilty plea to one felony count of child neglect causing serious bodily injury and providing false medical information. His charges stem from a 2009 incident in which Linkous scalded a small child in hot water from a bathtub. The child required treatment at a burn unit in Cincinnati.

Hutchison sentenced Linkous to serve one to 10 years, and he has already served one year at Southern Regional Jail.

Deidre Sneed, 30, of Sophia, was sentenced to one to five years for gross child neglect creating serious bodily injury. She also could face 12 months for each of her three DUI charges.

The guardian of the child recommended these sentences be served consecutively; that way, Sneed would potentially serve eight years in prison.

Sneed was also ordered to attend the Project Hope program, to visit the day report center for one year, and also to stay free from drugs and alcohol.

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