HUNTINGTON — Although a Huntington man convicted of murder Tuesday continued to deny his involvement in a 2017 double shooting, a jury said he should receive a sentence of life with no mercy after his surviving victim pleaded with them to not let him finish the job.
Quenton Avery Sheffield, 28, was found guilty Tuesday in the shooting death of Aaron William Black, 20, and the wounding of his girlfriend, Sydney Rice, then 21, both of Huntington, at Black’s Williams Avenue apartment.
He was convicted of first-degree murder, malicious wounding and being a person prohibited from possession of a firearm. Jurors also found a firearm was used in the commission of the malicious wounding, a separate charge that calls for a sentence of up to 10 years.
Cabell Circuit Judge Christopher Chiles has sentenced Sheffield to life without mercy, but will hold off on sentencing him on other charges until the completion of a pre-sentence investigation. He will be sentenced at a later, undetermined date.
The jurors’ final decision came after both sides presented witnesses who testified as to what type of person Sheffield was prior to the shooting.
Rice said she and Black had many goals in life they would never get the chance to complete because Sheffield viewed them as disposable.
“I feel like most (of the) time I would be better off dead because that’s how he left us,” she said, later adding, “No amount of time can bring back my emotional or mental health, my facial structure, eyesight or, more importantly, Aaron’s life.”
Sheffield took the stand, pleading for mercy while denying his involvement in the shootings.
“That was my friend. I didn’t even have time to mourn my friend’s life before people pointed the finger at me,” he said. “I just feel like my life has been ripped from me for something I had nothing to do with.”
He said he was a family man and a man of God who volunteered for his community.
In asking for him to be given no mercy, Rice said she didn’t think Sheffield showed remorse for what he did.
“I don’t want him to have the opportunity to finish what he started,” she said.
During the trial, prosecutors Lauren Plymale and Kellie Neal presented more than a dozen witnesses in their case, which lasted over four days, while the defense was able to finish its case within a couple hours while it attempted to discredit Rice’s eyewitness account of what happened.
Everyone agreed Black was a marijuana dealer, but the motive for his killing was disputed.
Defense attorneys Janice Givens and Bob Wible argued Rice had initially told 911 dispatchers she did not know who had shot her and she did not see their face, despite her testimony stating otherwise. There was no physical evidence to place Sheffield at the scene, they said. An expert witness testified there were a multitude of issues with eyewitness identification and it’s not always reliable.
While they admitted Sheffield had fled from Huntington after police identified him as a suspect, they said it was out of fear from persecution for something he did not do. He turned himself in in Beckley about a month after the shootings.
Plymale and Neal argued that Rice told police immediately it was Sheffield who had been in the apartment and shot her. She had not been focused on giving 911 details, and just wanted help. Phone data and records, forensics and cab company records all prove she had been telling the truth. If Sheffield was not the shooter, why would she have blamed him from the beginning, they said.
In countering the defense’s expert, another expert in the field said eyewitness identification is more reliable than not, especially when the two individuals know each other.
Medical doctors testified one thing was for sure — Rice did not shoot herself.
Rice testified last week that Black asked her to move from his couch to the bedroom after he received a message from Sheffield that he wanted to come over to purchase marijuana.
She testified she heard Sheffield walk up the stairs and the men greet each other. It was a few minutes later that she heard Sheffield say a long “wow” and Black gasp.
The shooter then swung open her bedroom door and shot her in the head. Rice said she played dead before finding the courage to go outside the room, where she found Black slumped over the kitchen table.
Sheffield’s phone data placed him in the area at the time of the shooting and showed he was not using his phone, despite having received phone calls during the time slot. However, he could have been at his family’s home a couple blocks away.
While searching for answers after the attack, Rice testified that rumors indicated Black and Sheffield were set to start a business together, but something went wrong. Givens said there was no proof of that.
Defense attorneys asked why Rice was asking people who else could have been at the scene if she was so sure it was Sheffield.
A defense witness, who is a friend of the Sheffield family, said Rice had told him multiple people had been at the apartment.
Two of Sheffield’s family members testified he had been with them at a home a couple blocks away on Sept. 2 when the shooting occurred, but police said they told detectives they had not seen him since Sept. 1.
Plymale accused them of being coached because jail calls indicate he had told one of them to be on her “A game.”
Rice has had many stays in the ICU since the shooting, has short-term memory loss and cannot live independently, her mother said.
“Sydney just had a daughter,” she said. “She can’t remember when she first saw her crawl. She can’t remember when she first called her ‘Mom.’”
Because of mounting medical bills and a loss of employment, Rice had to withdraw from school and file for bankruptcy. She also cannot rejoin the Army with her medical issues and will have more surgeries in the future.
Rice’s mother said she was forced to drop out of school and move from Huntington because of the divide the shooting created and cannot live independently.
Black’s grandfather said the shooting tore their family and community apart since the families involved were well acquainted. He said the jury’s decision would not change the hurt of the families suffering after they were unwillingly pulled into the situation, but was upset Sheffield showed no remorse.
“I am working toward forgiveness because that is what God would want me to do, but I am truly hurting,” he said. “I just hope this young man can find it somewhere in his heart to call on the same God that I do.”
Former Huntington detective Chris Sperry said Sheffield was convicted in 2012 of attempted first-degree murder in the robbery of $30 from a pizza delivery woman and attempt to commit a felony in an unrelated shooting of a woman along Charleston Avenue.
Givens said he had taken responsibility in those cases, but Plymale said he never admitted his guilt in the plea.
HUNTINGTON — A 50,000-square-foot lifestyle and wellness shopping center continues to see progress with the announcement of several new businesses planning to open within the next few days and throughout 2021.
Christopher’s Eats restaurant was the first business to open at the new Summit Eatery, Lifestyle & Wellness Center along U.S. 60 between Huntington and Barboursville. The second to open was Element Extraction, which does CBD extraction for retail shops across the country.
Sometime later this week or early next week, The Butcher Shop will open, according to Jeremy Adams, a co-owner of the development and also co-owner of several of the businesses at the center.
Adams says The Butcher Shop is unique.
“We are servicing the eastern part of Cabell County because we don’t have the option to go get fresh local meat or fish,” he said. “We try to source all of our meats and proteins locally, like Chillicothe, Ohio, and Greenbrier County in West Virginia.”
All the products are made in the U.S., which was important to Adams.
“Just over 76% of the products made in this new location are from women-owned companies,” he said. “Just as important is this new business will add two full-time and two part-time jobs to the local economy.”
The new meat shop is a little over 1,150 square feet in size, but will have over 2,000 individual items for sale, according to Adams.
“We will have craft wines and beers,” he said. “You can create your own six-pack.”
The shop will offer hand-cut steaks, pork, lamb, fresh fish, oysters, fresh ground hamburger and specialty meats, like venison and bison.
“We will be getting fresh meat in every two days,” Adams said.
The new shopping center, which is still under construction, is themed around health and wellness.
“We want to give shoppers an alternative choice when it comes to health care, healthy eating, healthy exercise and healthy living,” Adams said.
The med spa, called The Retreat, will be operated by Dr. Ben Moosavi and Dr. Amy Vaughan and will be an important piece of the health-based shopping center.
“We are hoping to have it opened sometime in the beginning of the year, around Valentine’s Day,” Adams said.
The center will feature a new orthodontic office operated by Dr. Maggie Adams.
“She will hopefully be up and running by next Christmas, in 2021,” he said. “That will be the last building to be completed in this development.”
The new shopping center covers over 2 acres with four different buildings and will have over 130 paved parking spaces.
“Right now we have two unoccupied spaces, one of which I have a deal worked out but cannot announce at this time,” Adams said. “The other space we might do something different, but this development will be totally completed by the winter of 2021.”
WILLOW WOOD, Ohio — Miho M. Egnor’s language skills no doubt played a big part in her being among 71 teachers nationwide to be selected for the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms.
Egnor, of Huntington, is in her second year teaching Spanish at Symmes Valley High School in Lawrence County. A native of Japan, Egnor speaks Spanish, English and Japanese.
She has a Master of Arts in Spanish and a Master of Science in adult and technical education, both from Marshall University.
“I’m a lifelong learner,” said Egnor who has lived in Huntington for 26 years and has been married to Clark Egnor, a longtime Marshall administrator who currently works for the West Virginia Higher Education Committee. He is a son of the late Cabell County Circuit Judge L.D. Egnor.
The couple met in Japan and has been married for 32 years.
It could be difficult to listen in on a conversation between the two since Clark also knows Japanese and Spanish, said Miho Egnor.
She applied for the Fulbright award in January and was notified she had been accepted to participate in the program this summer.
“I was shocked,” she said.
Egnor, who has become a U.S. citizen, received a congratulatory letter from President Donald Trump.
“Participants of this program represent our nation as citizen ambassadors,” Trump said in the letter. “You have the responsibility to demonstrate American values and display leadership around the world. May you use this time to teach, learn, grow and make connections that will last a lifetime.”
She is planning a three-week trip next June or July, visiting Colombia or Peru and talking to students there. One of the goals is to talk about mutual understanding, Egnor said.
Egnor is in her second year as the Spanish teacher at Symmes Valley High School. She also taught English as a second language to students in the Cabell County system.
Egnor taught Spanish to Huntington High School students for eight years, and Japanese to Cabell Midland students for two years.
“We’re extremely proud of her and happy she has this opportunity,” said Symmes Valley Superintendent Greg Bowman. “She gets the opportunity to go overseas. Writing essays for the Fulbright award was a strenuous process.”
Bowman announced the Fulbright award Egnor received in a recent school board meeting.
“I was pleased to be able to do that,” he said.
Egnor’s inspiration as a teacher comes from Jennifer Day, a Huntington High School librarian, she said.
She said she was so fortunate to be able to teach students, expand their knowledge “and help them think outside the box.”
The Fulbright program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
The program for American teachers is a year-long professional development for U.S. elementary, middle and high school teachers to develop skills for preparing students for a competitive global economy, according to a release from the State Department.
“The program equips teachers to bring an international perspective to their schools through targeted training, experience abroad and global collaboration,” according to the release.
HUNTINGTON — Three deaths related to COVID-19 were reported in the Tri-State on Tuesday.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) confirmed two additional deaths for Cabell County — a 64-year-old woman and a 72-year-old man. The county has had 12 deaths related to the virus.
There was also a COVID-19-related death reported in Lawrence County, marking that county’s 23rd death related to the virus.
Statewide, DHHR reported 194 new cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia on Tuesday, for a total of 16,936, and three new deaths, for a total of 364.
Total cases per county are: Barbour (109), Berkeley (1,118), Boone (259), Braxton (13), Brooke (123), Cabell (914), Calhoun (28), Clay (37), Doddridge (35), Fayette (662), Gilmer (49), Grant (163), Greenbrier (138), Hampshire (112), Hancock (155), Hardy (95), Harrison (464), Jackson (295), Jefferson (451), Kanawha (2,930), Lewis (41), Lincoln (189), Logan (664), Marion (311), Marshall (186), Mason (149), McDowell (96), Mercer (449), Mineral (178), Mingo (410), Monongalia (2,115), Monroe (155), Morgan (65), Nicholas (125), Ohio (384), Pendleton (53), Pleasants (20), Pocahontas (60), Preston (161), Putnam (641), Raleigh (567), Randolph (280), Ritchie (13), Roane (56), Summers (59), Taylor (147), Tucker (43), Tyler (17), Upshur (127), Wayne (426), Webster (9), Wetzel (64), Wirt (12), Wood (384) and Wyoming (130).
The Cabell-Huntington Health Department confirmed 338 active cases Tuesday.
Also in Cabell County, an individual at Huntington Middle School tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from Cabell County Schools. The individual had been asked to quarantine Friday after another person at the school tested positive for the virus.
Expanded contact tracing has been conducted by the school, with 11 additional people being asked to quarantine.
Huntington Middle School remains open and on the blended learning schedule, the release said.
In Ohio, the Lawrence County Health Department also reported six new positive cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, for a total of 762. Patients’ ages ranged from 20 to 67.
Statewide, there were 161,299 total cases as of 2 p.m. Tuesday, with 4,947 deaths related to the virus.
In Kentucky, the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, for a total of 543. The new cases are a 69-year-old woman in hospital isolation and a 19-year-old man, 19-year-old woman, 49-year-old woman, 53-year-old woman, 58-year-old woman, 63-year-old woman and 83-year-old woman, all isolating at home.
Statewide, there were 1,054 new cases reported, for a total of 74,194. The youngest new case was a 3-month-old child. There were also four new deaths reported, for a total of 1,218.
More than 39,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the U.S. on Tuesday, for a total of 7,436,278, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 209,560 deaths related to the virus.