Day 3: Eddie Washington Trial In Marion County - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Day 3: Eddie Washington Trial In Marion County

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FAIRMONT -

A man accused of a triple homicide in 1974 appeared in court on Wednesday for day three of his trial.

Eddie Washington, 60, faces three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Lester "Guy" Phillips, 20, Wanda June Phillips, 19, and Billy Ray Cobb, 27.

Jack Clayton, current Fairmont State University Police Chief, took the stand Tuesday afternoon. Clayton was a patrolman for the Fairmont Police Department in 1974 and was one of the first on scene at Windmill Park on August 2, 1974.

"There was an immediate problem of securing the crime scene," Clayton told Marion County Prosecutor, Patrick Wilson.

Due to the large crime scene, there was a lot to observe. Clayton said they called out multiple officers and detectives. There was blood on the grass from the head wounds but no footprints were visible next to the victims, according to Clayton.

He told the court he did find tire marks and a shoe print not far from the bodies. All of which were preserved in castings.

Paraffin castings were made of the victims hands, as well as Wanda Phillips' chest and neck to check for gunpowder residue.

Clayton told the court that Washington and Phil Bush's names came up almost immediately in regards to suspects.

Last on the stand Tuesday was Larry Henry, former West Virginia state trooper. He and Richard Cunningham, another former West Virginia state trooper, interrogated Washington on August 26, 1978.

Henry told the court Washington was brought into the Morgantown State Police Detachment on other charges.

Henry said they asked Washington a variety of questions about the murder and he wrote down the answers. He then read it back to them and signed the document after corrections were made.

Neal Hamilton, Washington's defense attorney, argued that the handwriting was in cursive and it was hard for Washington to read it. During a pretrial hearing in August, the court heard from Dr. Ronald Pierce, a psychiatrist, who conducted an evaluation on Washington. Following the evaluation, he determined that Washington's IQ was at second grade level.

When Wilson asked Henry how Washington appeared, he said he was responsive and lucid. He understood his rights and signed a waiver.

On Wednesday, Wilson called Richard Cunningham to the stands to give his testimony on the same interrogation.

Cunningham was a state trooper for 23 years and retired in December of 1989.

Cunningham said Washington appeared normal when he arrived to the station and called him "lucid and conversational".

"There was no confusion in his mind on why he was there," Cunningham told Wilson.

He said he read Washington his Miranda Warnings. Washington waived his rights and the copy was signed by all that was present. He never asked for an attorney or that the interview be stopped, according to Cunningham.

Cunningham took a written statement from Washington saying no cameras or audio devices were available.

Some of details in the statement included:

  • Washington said he knew about the homicide and Phil Bush pulled the trigger.
  • Washington said he was present at the time the victims were shot and his car was used.
  • Washington said he knew the deceased prior to the shooting and met them at the 'Playpen', a former Fairmont bar, on August 1, 1974.
  • Washington said he thinks Phil Bush wanted sexual relations with Wanda Phillips, but her husband wouldn't allow it.
  • Washington told the order in which the victims were killed. He said Wanda Phillips tried to get away.
  • Washington said an automatic 22 was used and Bush got rid of it that night.
  • Washington said he didn't come forward because of fear. He brought Phil Bush home after the shooting and went to Morgantown to 'have an alibi'.
  • Washington said he didn't leave town because he didn't think he would get caught.

Cunningham said Washington initialed and signed every page of the statement. He told Wilson he wanted to arrest Washington at that moment but the current Marion County Prosecutor at the time said he "would feel better if he had a murder weapon".

Hamilton grilled Cunningham on exact details from that day and the protocol for the officers in 1978. He asked him about Washington's clothes, social security number, and how Washington got to the station.

Cunningham didn't have the answer to any of the questions.

Hamilton also argued the interrogation should have been videotaped or recorded since the technology was available at that time.

Hamilton also pointed out that the date on the statement was wrong. Instead of saying August 2, 1974 was the date of the murders, he miswrote the year at 1978.

"You really messed up when taking this statement," Hamilton said to Cunningham.

He responded: "No sir. I may have had the date wrong but that's it."

Wilson called Lt. Amanda Gump from North Central Regional Jail to the stand. It was a short interrogation.

Gump told the court Washington had made three phone calls from February 21 until March 27, 2013. All calls have been recorded and are being used as evidence.

Della Bell, the sister of Guy Phillips, also took the stand Wednesday afternoon.

Bell said she was working at the "Playpen" as a barmaid the night before her brother was murdered.

She told the court she knew of Phil Bush and Eddie Washington prior to that night, but didn't know them personally.

She said the men were at "Playpen" on August 1, 1974 and her co-worker was waiting on them. The co-worker was able to get Washington to donate money to a cancer fund and fill out a card.

The defense told her it should have been turned into police as evidence, but never was.

Bell told Wilson her brother came to the bar that night and asked for money.

"I gave him three or four dollars," she said.

She doesn't remember him staying and knew his wife, Wanda Phillips, wasn't with him.

Charles Shaffer, former state trooper, was next to give his testimony. He was asked to assist the Fairmont Police Department in the investigation and took a statement from Washington just hours after the three bodies were found.

Shaffer said the statement was signed by Washington.

Details from that statement are:

  • Washington said he left Fairmont at 1:30 a.m. on August 2, 1974 and arrived in Morgantown at 4 a.m.
  • Washington said he parked his 1964 Pontiac on High Street and walked to sit on a nearby bench.
  • Washington said he then walked back to his car on High Street and got back to his girlfriends house in Fairmont at 6 a.m.

Shaffer said Washington was "very disoriented with the times of certain events".

Several times Washington would go off in a daze and say: "That was really bad last night", according to Shaffer.

When Shaffer asked what he meant, Washington acted like he just woke up and said he and his girlfriend broke up.

Patty Cosner, Washington's ex-girlfriend, was the next person to give her testimony. She told the court she met Washington about a year before the murders happened.

She told Wilson he stopped talking to her two weeks before the murders. She then began to date his friend, John Ford.

Cosner said on August 1, 1974, Washington came to her house yelling for her to come downstairs. When she declined, he told her he would "fill her head with four holes".

She said he never spoke to her like that so she didn't take him seriously.

Later that night, Cosner told the court that Washington, Ford, and Virgil Keener went out to get beer and came back to apartment on Monroe Street to play cards.

She told Wilson she was the first to go to sleep and was sure no one had left throughout the night.

Wilson then presented Cosner's statement from 1974 as evidence. Cosner told police on August 2, 1974 that she saw Washington leave her apartment on two separate occasions.

Wilson then played a recording of another statement from Cosner in March of 2004.

She told Fairmont Police she woke up many times during the duration of that night. At one point, Washington wasn't there. At another, he was sitting in a chair in the front room "staring into space".

She told police that when she asked him what was wrong, he told her "nothing". She also told police Washington's boots were extremely muddy and they weren't like that before she went to sleep.

"It was obvious that he left," Cosner said in her 2004 statement.

Cosner was extremely emotional on the stand while listening to her 2004 statement. She told Wilson she was diagnosed with dementia several years ago and doesn't remember much.

Hamilton argued that some of the things Cosner said in her 2004 statement were inaccurate, in which she agreed.

Cosner was unable to answer many of Hamilton's questions because she said "she couldn't remember".

Washington's trial will continue Thursday morning at 9 a.m. in the Division I Courtroom, Marion County Courthouse.

For past stories on this trial, click on the link.