By Lyra Bordelon
A new indictment for murder and two ongoing murder cases continued through the Greenbrier County Circuit Court on Monday, October 19.
The newly unsealed indictment from a recent Greenbrier County Grand Jury charged Yvette Chapman with two counts related to the death of Shaela Lynn McCoy Abren. Previously, Thomas Dunbar pled and was found guilty for Abren’s murder.
“The most recent grand jury returned an indictment for murder with respect to Yvette Chapman,” said Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via “That is relative to the case to which Mr. Dunbar is already serving a life sentence.”
The grand jury charged Chapman with two counts, the first being murder, stating that “Yyette Cheri Chapman, while acting as an accessory before the fact, did assist and aid a principal in the first degree, Thomas Ray Dunbar, who feloniously, willfully, maliciously, deliberately, and unlawfully did slay, kill, and murder one Shaela Lynn McCoy.” Count two, conspiracy to commit murder, explains the grand jury charges Chapman and Dunbar with conspiring “to commit the murder of one Shaela Lynn McCoy.”
Dunbar plead guilty in February 2019 to the McCoy’s murder. During the hearing, a relative of Abren also took the stand to give a victim impact statement. She explained that she did not get a chance to say goodbye, and discussed the difficulty of losing a close family member unexpectedly. Emotional, yet composed, she spoke of the plea deal’s request for mercy, allowing Dunbar to be potentially eligible for parole, and addressed Dunbar directly.
“The word mercy is a hard word. It’s a really hard word,” the relative said. “[At first,] I said no. In my heart. But [Abren] had a heart, and so do I. … Her five children are going to deal with this, same as your five children. You can’t take that away. … It doesn’t matter what sentence or anything that is done here right now, what matters now is what comes after this and what you do with it. It doesn’t matter how many years you’re in there, because if you don’t make the right choices from here on out, you’re stuck with that.”
As part of the plea, Dunbar is serving a life sentence, with the mercy of the court that would allow him to appeal with the parole board after serving for 15 years.
Dunbar was in court on Monday, but not for Abren’s murder, but for his alleged role in the death of Chastity Hamm.
In June 2019, a Greenbrier County Grand Jury charged Dunbar and Amanda Serreno with Hamm’s murder in multiple charges.
“[Dunbar] and [Serreno] attempted to slay, kill, and murder one Chasity F. Hamm by administering to [Hamm], intravenously, a combination of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, and insulin, with the intention of killing Hamm,” reads the indictment. Serreno was also charged with accessory after the fact to Abren’s murder.
Between a potential deal between the state and Serreno and Chapman’s indictment, the case against Dunbar for Hamm’s murder is expecting several motions from the state, including introduction of evidence. Because of this, the future of the case remains uncertain. However, Dunbar remains incarcerated as a result of this previous plea deal, and, because of COVID-19 complications, has not been able to meet with his defense attorney Richard Gunnoe.
“We, collectively, would like a little extra time to file some motions, whatever time frame the court sets with the understanding that, speaking in terms of the state, ours will get filed appropriately,” Via explained. “… I think the resolution of those motions of where we go from there in terms of whether it’s a trial or not.”
After the recent denial of a defense motion for new trial, planning for Carl Wayne Rich’s recidivism identity trial is underway. Rich was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter for his role in the compound bow shooting death of Jay Boothe in 2018.
Looking to impose what’s sometimes called the “three strikes and you’re out” rule in the West Virginia State Code, the prosecution is seeking a life imprisonment sentence. In January, Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via submitted a document in the case, laying out two previous convictions and sentences allegedly committed by Carl Rich. The offenses included a 2004 burglary and a 2010 instance of delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine.
In order to do this, the prosecution is required to hold a trial establishing Rich’s identity. For this trial, however, the defense made a motion that Rich not be physically in the room and, instead, use the trial to utilize a “line up” of potential people for witnesses to identify.
“Any identification in the court room would be highly suggestive [as to] Carl Rich’s identity,” explained defense attorney Paul Detch. “In so much that this is an identity trial, he should be able to view this by remote camera if need be but the jury should not be able to see him and … maybe [Rich] should be picked out of an array. We believe the witnesses should be provided an array of at least ten similar, same age, similar facial trim, … so that the array, or at least the line up that would occur would be done in a neutral manner.”
Via pushed back against the motion, explaining “the question before the jury will be whether the individual in this proceeding is the same as the individual in two prior proceedings. … I think Mr. Detch is relying on some law as it related to investigative identifications and identification by the witness, but for purposes of this trial we cannot expect to identify this defendant by way of video. … I’ve never heard of such a thing, I don’t think there’s any authority by which the identification should be conducted in such a manner. I think it’s necessary that Mr. Rich be present before the jury.”
Rich also appeared not to have consulted with his attorneys on the motion before it was submitted.
“I want to make certain that Mr. Rich is in agreement with what appears to be the waiver of a significant right on his behalf, or an attempt to waive that right,” said Richardson. “Mr. Rich you have the right to be present, in person to take part in this trial without the limitations that would be imposed [by being at a distance]. … There are certain rights that the defendant and the defendant alone can choose to exercise or not to exercise.”
Richardson then asked Rich directly if he had been consulted on this waiving of rights.
“I believe I would go with what my lawyer suggests, I will go with what he believes is best to do,” Rich said. “I trust him and he know the law better than I do – I’d have to discuss it with him and see what he tells me to do.”
Rich then confirmed not having discussed “this specific matter” with the defense.
Richardson gave the defense more time to provide the authority under which this type of identification could be used. The recidivism trial is expected to take place later this year.