Two charged in death of missing man
EAST LYNN — Persistent police work and the nagging belief things were not as they seemed led to West Virginia State Police charging two people in connection with the death and burial of a man who had been missing since midsummer.
Erica Dawn Street, 31, and Wayne Daniel Kilpatrick, 51, were incarcerated early morning Saturday. State troopers charged Street with first-degree murder and Kilpatrick with accessory after the fact to murder, both felonies.
The case stems from the apparent death of Julius Davis, who authorities described as Street’s 51-year-old boyfriend and father to their two sons, ages 5 and 7.
State Police spent much of Saturday searching for Davis’ remains at the couple’s property along Little Lynn Creek Road near East Lynn. They had focused on a section of land approximately 150 yards from the couple’s mobile home, according to Wayne County Prosecutor Tom Plymale and Trooper D. J. Chapman.
Nothing had been found as of mid afternoon Saturday, Chapman said.
A criminal complaint charging Kilpatrick states Street contacted him months months ago in order for him to assist in disposing Davis’ body. It further charges Kilpatrick removed the body from the couple’s residence, buried it in a shallow grave on the property and then burned undisclosed items to destroy evidence of the crime, Chapman confirmed.
State Police were alerted to Davis’ disappearance Aug. 23 by way of a missing persons report. It indicated Davis was last seen in July, and Chapman said further information suggested Davis had packed his belongings and abruptly left the couple’s residence.
But Chapman and Senior Trooper P.J. Dick said Davis couldn’t be located, and neither investigator believed they had evidence to be satisfied with such an explanation. That led to further inquiries and preparations were underway to circulate Davis’ photograph to news media when new information came to light last week.
The arrests followed with both suspects providing statements to police. Both were arraigned Saturday via video from the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville, where Street was held without bond and with Kilpatrick’s set at $50,000.
“We always just had the hint of suspicion,” Chapman said. “We’re always looking for that next piece of evidence, looking for that next step in the case.”
Plymale said investigators believe Davis died from a gunshot wound to the head, however Chapman warned that could not be confirmed without the victim’s body.
Both men described Davis’ property as a large, rural tract of land along Little Lynn Creek Road. Chapman said some estimates place the property at 500 acres. The trooper said Saturday’s search was focused upon finding Davis’ body and any other evidence.
The alleged murder weapon was among the missing items mid afternoon Saturday. Chapman said investigators had received conflicting information about its location.
Chapman declined comment when asked about motive, saying such a disclosure could involve specifics about Street’s statement to investigators.
“We’re in the really early stages of possible recovery,” he said.
The couple’s children were taken into the custody of Child Protective Services, said Plymale and Chapman. The prosecutor said the boys had continued to live at the mobile home with Street since their father’s reported disappearance.
Plymale said he was unaware of any court filings that suggested problems between the couple, such as a battery complaint or domestic violence petition.
Davis is survived by multiple siblings, Chapman said. He and Plymale said the victim had moved into the area from Mingo County. The prosecutor described Street as having been from Wetzel County near the state’s Northern Panhandle.
Plymale said investigators believe Kilpatrick was a friend of Street’s, however he lacked additional information.
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