KINGWOOD, W.Va. (WBOY) – A verdict has been reached for a Preston County man charged with killing his stepfather.

Zachary Saunders was found not guilty in the murder of John Uphold in a trial that was held Friday.

Saunders was accused of beating his stepfather to death in March 2021. Friday, prosecutors highlighted how Saunders and his girlfriend Stephanie Michelle Heath admitted that they used meth on the night of the alleged murder. They also pointed out that the couple was routinely paranoid in the days leading up to the murder and thought that the victim, John Uphold, and his wife Rhonda were trying to kill them.

Police reports show that law enforcement were called to Saunders’ home multiple times in the week before the murder, and Saunders claimed that there were intruders in his house and that Uphold was trying to kill him with carbon monoxide and poison him with a sandwich, prosecutors said. They also cited other paranoia, including Saunders thinking that mites were eating his hands and him showering in bleach because of it.

They also reiterated the discrepancies in Heath’s testimony on Thursday and brought up text messages that suggest that she knew about the murder and injuries of the victim before she and Saunders were informed of the death.

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