By Lawrence Smith

CLARKSBURG - Records show prior to the one filed against him recently, a State Trooper was also named as a co-defendant in another civil rights suit involving a Calhoun County woman 16 years ago.

Last month, Jackie L. Denmark filed suit in U.S. District Court against Cpl. D.B. Starcher accusing him of falsely arresting her in March 2010 on charges of aiding and abetting kidnapping.

In her suit, Denmark alleges Starcher arrested her in an effort to get her disclose the location of David Wayne Beech, a missing teenager from Roane County.

Denmark's son, Seth, was also arrested in March 2010, and charged with kidnapping Beech, whose body has yet to be discovered. Though charged with it last year, Seth Denmark was formally indicted for Beech's murder by a special grand jury last month.

Last April, the aiding and abetting charge against Jackie Denmark was dismissed.

In 1998, Starcher was named as the lead defendant in suit filed by Donald Jones, as the administrator of the estate of his wife, Patricia.

In his suit, Jones alleged Starcher, the State Police, then Calhoun County Sheriff William Stemple and Deputy Sheriff George Settles were negligent in shooting, and killing Patricia two years earlier when Starcher and Stemple were called to the Joneses home in Big Springs in response to an apparent domestic dispute.

'Confrontation' Turns Fatal

According to the suit, which was filed on June 11, 1998, also in U.S. District Court, Starcher and Settles were dispatched to the Jones home on June 14, 1996 "to investigate an allegation of domestic violence." After arriving at the scene, Starcher and Settles "entered into a confrontation" with Patricia.

The nature of the confrontation is not specified in the suit. However, as a result "Starcher and/or...George Settle [sic], negligently, willfully, wantonly and intentionally, in disregard of the civil rights of the said Patricia Ann Jones, shot and killed" her.

The suit does not provide much detail about Jones' death except she "was severely wounded by one or more gunshots and later died."

Also, the suit maintains Starcher and Settles "used excessive force to restrain ... Jones at a time when they were not permitted to do so."

According to an Associated Press report in the June 16, 1996, edition of the Charleston Gazette, Jones, 38, was shot after she pointed a rifle at Starcher and Settles, and fired one shot.

According to 1st Sgt. Carl Berlin with the State Police's Spencer detachment, "Police returned fire, killing Jones."

Four days later, The Calhoun Chronicle reported that, after they arrived at her house, Jones pointed an unspecified weapon at Starcher and Settles. When she fired at Starcher, "Settles had no choice but to fire once, fatally wounding Jones," the article said.

According to her death certificate, Jones died of a shotgun wound to her chest.

Prior to the shooting, The Chronicle reported Stemple, and Deputy Steve Lampos spoke with Jones via telephone. Along with Starcher and Settles, Stemple and Lampos "repeatedly asked and ordered [Jones] to surrender her weapon."

According to The Chronicle, Donald Jones was not at the home after Starcher and Settles arrived.

Along with a claim the State Police did not do likewise with Starcher, the suit alleges Stemple "failed adequately to train or otherwise direct ... George Settle [sic], concerning the rights of citizens, thereby causing ... [him], to engage in the unlawful conduct described above."

According to the state Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee, Settles never received the training necessary to be a certified law enforcement officer.

Suit Dies, Too

In the suit, Jones asked that he be awarded $500,000 in damages for Patricia's death. Also, his attorney, Keith White of St. Marys, asked he recover the costs of litigating the suit, including his fee.

Records show, those proved to be minimal as Judge Irene B. Keeley dismissed the suit on Jan. 25, 1999 on the grounds White failed to serve any of the defendants with a copy of the complaint, and a summons.

Though Keeley dismissed the suit without prejudice which allowed an opportunity for White to re-file it, records show he never did.

The West Virginia Record attempted to obtain a comment from White about the suit. He did not return repeated calls by presstime.

Also, repeated messages left with Settles and Stemple were not returned by presstime.

Because he was constitutionally barred from seeking a third successive term as sheriff, Stemple successfully ran for the House of Delegates in 1996. He held the seat, which, along with Calhoun included Gilmer and Clay counties, until 2008.

In May's Democratic primary, Stemple, 64, is again a candidate for sheriff. His opponents are former sheriff and chief deputy Carl Ballengee and Eugene Stevens.

Currently, Starcher is assigned to the Wirt County detachment in Elizabeth.


U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number 98-cv-96

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