CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Two individuals charged in connection to the 1989 murder of John Perry were set to appear before Harrison County Magistrate Keith Marple on Wednesday.
In a preliminary hearing, held via Skype, Charles Franklin was represented by Attorney James Hawkins. Franklin has been charged with second-degree murder.
Prosecutor Brian Shockley represented the state and called Harrison County Sheriff’s Department Detective Sergeant Dixon Pruitt as the investigating officer in the incident in order to determine if there was probable cause for the state to move forward with Franklin’s trial.
In his testimony, Pruitt stated that he had been assigned on July 18, 2019, as the investigating officer into the criminal investigation of the March 14, 1989 incident, which took place at the former Harrison County Correctional Facility located at 306 Washington St. in Clarksburg. The attack on Perry took place in Cell E on the fifth floor of the facility.
Pruitt testified that he had contact with Franklin throughout his investigation and that he had received four written confession letters penned by Franklin, as well as having an audio recording from Franklin—each of which contained statements by Franklin of his responsibility for the homicide.
Also, Pruitt said that he had photographs which showed Franklin with blood on his coveralls and abrasions on his hands consistent with the assault reported in the 1989 incident. The coveralls had been sent to a lab, and the blood on them tested positive for human blood; however, the blood was not DNA tested to confirm if it belonged to Perry.
In the incident, Franklin is accused of beating Perry then placing his neck against the metal bed and stomping it, which Pruitt claimed caused Perry’s death; the medical report stated that Perry’s death was the result of asphyxia, ligature and manual strangulation.
In relation to the report of Perry’s cause of death, Pruitt stated that once Perry was unconscious, Franklin “intentionally stepped on Perry’s neck on a metal bunk, killing him.”
Based on Franklin’s testimony in his confessions, Pruitt said that the evidence from the medical report, witness statements and the photos of Franklin’s wounds corroborated Franklin’s confession.
In a cross examination, Franklin’s attorney asked if Pruitt had a copy of the medical report available, which Pruitt said he did not.
Hawkins then went on to state that the medical report did list the cause of death as asphyxia, ligature and manual strangulation, but it did not list blunt force trauma as a cause of death, which Pruitt confirmed as true.
Despite the attack on Perry’s neck, Hawkins stated that another individual involved in the incident had placed Perry into a “sleeper hold,” and that Franklin had not done so. Pruitt did not have information available on how long the individual had placed Perry in the “sleeper hold” but did state that he had gone unconscious as a result.
Also, Hawkins pointed out that the medical report did not rule out the “sleeper hold” as the cause of Perry’s death; Hawkins said that a lot of the state’s evidence against his client stems solely from the confessions that Franklin made, as well.
Pruitt said Franklin’s first confession was made in 2016, but Franklin had not been charged at that time.
In response to Hawkins’ cross examination, Shockley stated that the individuals involved in the incident had been “acting in concert,” and that is what led to Perry’s death.
Hawkins then stated that the defense did not wish to present testimony or evidence during the preliminary hearing, but the prosecution wished to move forward with probable cause based off Pruitt’s statements and investigation.
In response, the defense stated that there was no probable cause to continue with the second-degree murder charge because Franklin “only participated in acts of blunt force trauma, but did not cause asphyxiation,” in accordance to what the autopsy had reported.
The defense also asked that Franklin be allowed bond due to the fact that the sentence for the crime of second-degree murder in 1989 would have resulted in 5-18 years, which is not as much as the current amount of time the sentence carries.
Hawkins requested bail be set at $100,000; however, Shockley responded by stating that the defense would have to submit a request with the circuit court in relation to a change of bond because there had not been a written change in bond filed beforehand.
After Shockley stated that the confessions of Franklin and the testimony from Pruitt were enough to provide probable cause, Marple ruled that there was enough evidence to show probable cause and that Franklin’s case would be moved to circuit court to await indictment by a grand jury.
Later Wednesday, co-defendant Frederick Hamilton was unable to obtain counsel, so prosecutor James Armstong filed a motion to continue the hearing so that Hamilton could do so.
Marple accepted the motion to continue and said his office would send Hamilton the paperwork necessary for him to obtain counsel.
No date has been set for the future court events for either Franklin or Hamilton.
Both men remain in the Mount Olive Correctional Center.
A third man, Warren Franklin, is charged with malicious wounding in the incident.