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Dreyfuse sentenced to life without parole

Oct. 26, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Edward "Jesse" Dreyfuse received life in prison with no chance for parole Friday morning, a short time after forcing his attorney to remain mute and offer no argument against such a punishment.

Dreyfuse, 47, was convicted last week of first-degree murder and burglary in an April 9, 2012, beating in the 900 block of Washington Avenue. The victim, Otis Clay Jr., died weeks later at St. Mary's Medical Center.

Witnesses had testified Dreyfuse was overwhelmed with anger about a $30 drug rip-off when he rushed into Clay's house, grabbed a bat Clay kept at the door for personal safety and used it to repeatedly strike the 66-year-old victim. Doctors say those injuries led to his death.

The jury deliberated Dreyfuse's fate for approximately 15 minutes before recommending life in prison without parole. Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell agreed and ordered the punishment moments later, much to the appreciation of Melda Trogdon, one of three of Clay's sisters who attended Friday's hearing.

"My heart felt better, but it still didn't bring my brother back," Trogdon said afterwards. "But I felt good that he's going to be gone. He won't hurt anybody else like my brother."

Cabell County Prosecutor Chris Chiles presented three witnesses in his argument for no parole. A nephew testified Clay was childlike and loved helping others, while an investigator and corrections official described Dreyfuse as a repeat criminal who violated probation and discharged one sentence without parole.

Chiles, citing testimony of his investigator Tim Murphy, noted three prior convictions consisting of breaking and entering in Wetzel County, W.Va., and receiving stolen property in eastern Pennsylvania, along with identity theft and obtaining property by false pretense in Ohio County, W.Va.

Last week's murder and burglary verdict added a fourth conviction, which left Chiles to ask jurors one final question.

"Are you going to let there be a fifth?" Chiles asked the jury. "(Dreyfuse) showed no mercy to Junior. He deserves no mercy from you."

Dreyfuse, previously described as a homeless man who had lived in Huntington for some time with ties to Parkersburg, W.Va., and New Martinsville, W.Va., provided no comment as a deputy escorted him from the courtroom.

Defense attorney John Laishley said Dreyfuse's decision to remain mute at Friday's hearing left him "bewildered." The attorney said he had worked hours to prepare and had witnesses available in an effort to win his client parole eligibility.

"I think it's basically his personality and his decision," Laishley said while jurors were deliberating. "This is what he wanted to do. He was pretty much a defeatist. He took a defeatist attitude toward the whole thing."

Chiles believed Dreyfuse's decision to put forth no argument at sentencing had no impact on the final ruling, saying after court that he thought his evidence would be overwhelming.

Laishley, at the behest of his client, argued after sentencing for a recommendation the state relocate Dreyfuse to a jail in northern West Virginia, while he awaits an ultimate transfer to a state penitentiary.

Farrell agreed to make such recommendation, but offered no guarantees, saying placement is a decision for state officials.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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