(02/20/2002)
By Bob Weaver

A special prosecutor is being appointed to investigate State Policeman Doug Starcher for alleged perjury in a Calhoun drug case. Starcher, a senior trooper assigned to the Grantsville detachment for several years, gave sworn testimony to a grand jury in January, 2001, which led to the indictment and year-long prosecution of Chloe resident Kelly Mace.

Mace was charged with possession of meth amphetamine with intent to deliver. The case was dropped last September.

Mace filed a complaint last November with Calhoun Prosecutor Tony Morgan. She said Trooper Starcher and Sgt. John Bonazzo concocted evidence against her. Trooper Starcher testified he possessed the illegal substance, which he failed to validate in court proceedings. Mace says the seized substance was common garden sulfur.

Mace's complaint to Morgan said "I expect Trooper Doug Starcher....to be prosecuted, as any other citizen who lies before a court of justice."

Judge Thomas C. Evans III has disqualified Prosecutor Morgan at his request and a special prosecutor will be appointed by Alexander M. Ross, Executive Director of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute in Charleston.

Morgan expressed concern that "Douglas Starcher is a senior trooper from the West Virginia State Police and is the arresting officer in pending cases wherein I am the prosecutor."

"Complaints have been filed and a request for criminal investigation (are being made) in regard to sworn testimony Sr. Tpr. Starcher gave to the Calhoun Grand Jury on January 2, 2001 in the case of State of WV vs. Kelly Mace," said Morgan.

Sgt. John Bonazzo, Grantsville detachment commander at the time, helped obtain a search warrant in spring, 2000, describing a million dollar drug operation and 270 stolen guns linked to Mace. The officers confiscated several items, with no drugs or stolen guns found.

Testimony in the case appeared confusing about the names of officers, methods and numbers of State Police officers participating in the raid and why there was a lack of effort to search for the stolen guns mentioned in the search warrant.

Court records indicate numerous other problems linked to the case, including the failure of Sgt. Bonazzo to appear in court after a subpoena was issued to him to testify.

The raid was made on information provided by an informant who was incarcerated when he appeared in court.

Besides the appointment of a special prosecutor, records show State Police Sgt. J. B. Schoolcraft is doing an investigation regarding Trooper Starcher. Starcher has reportedly been assigned to special duty out of Calhoun County, and a new trooper and a new detachment commander have been assigned to the county this week.

Sgt. John Bonazzo was transferred back to Braxton County, where he has been called on the carpet for creating a "target list" of eleven Braxton County citizens who are "not to be given any breaks." Braxton Trooper M. A. Straley, under Bonazzo's command, was reportedly fired a few weeks ago, although State Police denied a Hur Herald Freedom of Information request to validate his dismissal. Civil suits are pending related to Braxton County police problems.

Kelly Mace, who claims she has been victimized, says "The record and investigation will clearly show criminal behavior and a violation of the laws of the State of West Virginia by Trooper Doug Starcher and his supervising officer Sgt. John Bonazzo," although Sgt. Bonazzo is not mentioned in Morgan's request for an investigation.

Mace is also processing a civil suit against the West Virginia State Police, stating they "destroy the lives of people who do not deserve it."

The West Virginia State Police recently declined to sustain charges made against former Calhoun Trooper Tom Yanero, after Gilmer County Prosecutor Gerry Hough requested an investigation. A Deputy Assessor accused Yanero of brandishing a gun and making threats toward him when he called on his residence to do a tax assessment. There were other issues involving State Police problems in Gilmer County.

Trooper Yanero has been involved in several other cases alleging professional misconduct, being indicted temporarily for battery and being the subject of a million dollar civil suit for allegedly beating a Roane County man. The State Police made him "Trooper of the Year."

Trooper Doug Starcher is currently the object of a civil suit filed by Grantsville resident Richard Whytsell, after he reportedly went into a rage and threw a MagLite through the rear window of the man's car. State Police sustained misconduct charges against Starcher, made by Whytsell.


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