Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Dimlich on Tuesday granted strict home confinement and a $50,000 bond for an Artie man who allegedly entered an abandoned mine with three other people in December, leading to a mine rescue effort to save the lives of three West Virginians.
Eddie Williams, 44, has Stage Four melanoma cancer, his former attorney Robert Dunlap wrote in court documents. He has been at Southern Regional Jail since Jan. 3, when his bond on a January 2018 charge related to copper theft was revoked in Raleigh Circuit Court.
On Tuesday, Dimlich set a $50,000 bond, ordered that Williams wear a monitoring bracelet and ordered that all occupants and the home itself be approved by law enforcement officials prior to Williams leaving SRJ.
Williams may only leave the house for doctor appointments and medical visits.
Photos that Dunlap attached to several motions in his request for home confinement show the progression of a spot on Williams' back. It appeared to grow from an open wound that was roughly the size of a dime in July to a wound that is currently about the size of a man's fist and stuffed with gauze.
Dunlap requested in a motion filed Monday that Williams be released to the home of his longtime girlfriend, Stephanie Ashley of Artie, and that the he await trial at Ashley's house. He stated in July and again on Tuesday that Southern Regional Jail did not have the resources to provide the level of care that Williams' treatment of cancer requires.
"I think the medical records reflect that they are not in any position to treat a person with his cancer diagnosis," Dunlap told The Register-Herald on Wednesday. "We understand that they have outsourced the medical care at the regional jails to third party companies, but, ultimately, the taxpayers have to look at so many of these cases where people receive medical care and ask if an adequate job is being done."
Williams had been indicted in May 2018 on charges related to copper wire theft from an Alpha Resources mine.
On Dec. 9, Williams was out on bond when Williams, his cousin Kayla Williams, 25, of Artie, Erica Treadway, 31, of Pax in Fayette County, and 21-year-old Cody Beverly of Clear Creek allegedly entered the idled Elk's Run Rock House Powellton mine and got lost when their lights died. Williams was the only experienced mine worker in the group. He made it out of the mine, either early Saturday or late Sunday, according to reports by family members.
Family members told media that they believed the four had entered the mine to steal copper wire so they could purchase narcotics.
Gov. Jim Justice later launched a rescue effort that included two searches by mine rescue teams and the West Virginia National Guard and pumping of water from the mine, along with ventilation. Family and friends of the three, along with Justice, were jubilant on Dec. 12 when rescuers found Treadway, Kayla and Beverly about 1,000 feet from where they had entered.
Williams turned himself in to police on Dec. 21 and was charged with breaking and entering, felony conspiracy and giving false information to law enforcement officers.
In early January, a Raleigh judge revoked Williams' bond on the 2018 charge and remanded him to SRJ.
In August, Dunlap had asked Raleigh Circuit Judge Darl Poling to release Williams to home confinement, citing a lack of adequate cancer care at SRJ. Raleigh Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller had argued against home confinement on the basis that a previous $50,000 bond had not deterred Williams from committing a crime, and Poling had ruled on Aug. 28 that Williams remain at SRJ.
In the hearing, court transcripts show, Dunlap had told Poling that Williams could not get adequate health care while incarcerated, specifically mentioning that Williams had a malignant tumor and no access to a second opinion on treatments while his health care was limited to SRJ contracted physicians. He reported that the cancer had progressed while Williams was at SRJ, after Williams had notified SRJ staff of the lesion and waited several months for a biopsy.
"I have a really hard time responding that persons who are incarcerated get the same level of medical care as person who are not incarcerated," said Dunlap. "That premise is hard to argue against, because it's such a farce."
Poling expressed concerns that Williams did not have a medical card and told Dunlap that if he could provide a witness to testify that Williams would receive better care outside of the jail system then the matter could be revisited.
Williams' trial had originally been set for this month, but a superseding indictment that added a charge of arson was filed by the Raleigh Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which postponed the trial date and would have required Williams to spend a longer time at SRJ, said Dunlap.
The arson charge was made because Williams allegedly burned insulation in order to acquire the copper wire, Dunlap said.
He said that the chain of events prompted him to file motions before Raleigh Circuit Court's three judges and to attach photos of Williams' back, in an effort to get Williams placed on home confinement, where he would have access to more attentive cancer treatment and wound care.
"I didn't want that on my conscience," said Dunlap.
Dunlap sent a letter to Raleigh Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller on Oct. 1 with photos of Williams' wounds attached, court documents show.
Keller said Wednesday that she opposed Dunlap's motion for home confinement before Dimlich on Tuesday because, based on Williams' record of being charged with crimes while out on bond, she did not believe he was an ideal candidate for home confinement.
Prior to the Aug. 28 hearing before Poling, court documents show, Keller had accessed Williams' medical records.
"As part of the hearings, the judge did grant me permission to speak with his medical provider," she said Wednesday. "It was my understanding, from the information I received, and that was part of the court record, that he was getting adequate care.
"However, what the defense alleged is that his condition was worsening.
"I have no complaints against Judge Dimlich exercising compassion," she added.
Citing a Tuesday report by Raleigh Commission President Dave Tolliver that the county's SRJ jail bill is over budget and that a crisis is looming due to high jail costs, Dunlap criticized the Raleigh Prosecuting Attorney's Office for arguing in favor of keeping Williams at SRJ.
"A hundred feet from the front door of the county Commision is the Prosecuting Attonrey's office, and that's who needs to take a hard look at all the non-violent offenders who are spending appreciable amounts of time in jail, period," Dunlap said. "I know jail is the only thing we have for folks who continue to commit crimes, but in the other breath, we're saying we can't afford to house them and that the City of Beckley has to start subsidizing.
"We have to start looking at some of these non-violent offenders, trespassing, shoplifting, driving infractions, and we have to wonder, do the ends justify the means?"
He added that Williams and the county would be better served if Williams were on home confinement, due to the progression of the cancer.
Keller responded to Dunlap's statement Wednesday by stating that Williams is alleged in court documents to be a repeat offender who committed a crime while out on bond and that he would not likely be a reasonable candidate for home confinement under any currently existing standard.
"I have nothing but respect for our county Commission, so their decisions as to how they may reduce jail bills, I trust their decisions," she added.
She said that a forum of Raleigh Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick, Steve Davis of the Raleigh Community Corrections Board, an assistant prosecuting attorney, special investigator Jeff Shumate of the Prosecutor's office and others meet weekly to assess the county's list of those who are in jail and to release eligible non-violent offenders.
"Mr. Shumate and the assistant prosecutors here in the office work extremely hard to ensure that only people who need to be in jail are in jail," she said. "It's very difficult to get yourself in jail on a misdemeanor.
"You have to really try."
Keller said that the jail bill fluctuates. In months when there is a major drug bust, or a return of indictments for an unusually large number of violent crimes and felonies, the bill spikes.