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Second murder suspect's case goes to grand jury

Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- A second man charged in this month's double homicide in Huntington will remain behind bars while prosecutors prepare the case for a grand jury.

Thomas Maurice White, 21, heard the ruling Tuesday at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing in Cabell County Magistrate Court.

An investigator testified White killed Darrell Fugua, 22, during a drug-related robbery along Foster Avenue which also injured DeVante Penn, 17, who later died.

The victims, both of Detroit, were shot about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 6, at 1939 Foster Ave., a residence described in court documents and testimony as a drug house that contained a significant amount of heroin.

Testimony involving that motive leans upon the statement of codefendant Rocky Hudson Williams, who told investigators he and White went to the residence to get drugs. Investigators also have fingerprint evidence linking White to the case.

Williams, 19, and White, both of Huntington, each face two counts of murder during the commission of a felony. They are detained without bond.

Huntington Police Detective Chris Sperry cited Williams' video-recorded police statement in testifying White met with Fugua in an upstairs bedroom where gunshots were fired soon thereafter.

The sight of White returning downstairs while bleeding from a gunshot wound to his own leg prompted Williams to fire a spray of gunshots as both men exited the residence, Sperry testified. Investigators believe one of those bullets severed Penn's femoral arty.

The teenager used his last breaths of consciousness to pinpoint Williams as his shooter in a statement to police. He died days later, Nov. 10, at St. Mary's Medical Center, Sperry testified.

Defense attorney Tim Rosinsky urged Magistrate Patty Verbage-Spence to dismiss White's murder charge. He argued police have weak evidence that a robbery occurred. The absence of such evidence would undercut the investigators' charge of murder during the commission of robbery.

"I don't know if they can prove a felony occurred upstairs other than the actual murder itself, which we don't even know if (White) fired the shot," Rosinsky said. "So I would say, based upon that, I think this is charged wrong."

Verbage-Spence disagreed. That gives prosecutors time to review evidence and present the case for possible indictment. Such a process could result in a different strategy and/or additional charges.

Sperry testified investigators found White's fingerprints on a .40 caliber handgun found inside a vehicle parked near the crime scene. They also found a portion of White's palmprint on the vehicle's passenger-side window.

Police also have a witness who spotted two men running from the crime scene, including one carrying a handgun and pulling his leg as if it had been shot, Sperry testified.

A passerby then noticed White struggling and offered him a ride to Cabell Huntington Hospital. White claimed to have been the victim of a drive-by shooting, a story later refuted by doctors who believe the wound might have been self-inflicted due to its direction being straight down as if the weapon discharged while in a waistband.

Investigators have not determined the caliber of the bullet that wounded White, due to the medical decision to leave the bullet in White's leg to avoid further nerve damage.