$200,000 BOND SET FOR RUSH - "Sealed" Information Used In Cross-Exam, Case Will Be Tried December 13

By Bob Weaver

18-year-old Ronnie Rush (pictured left) of Sand Ridge appeared yesterday in a preliminary hearing in Grantsville before Judge Thomas Evans III, related to the double homicide of Ward Groves and Mary Hicks in May, 2003.

Several motions were made, bond was set and there was a cross-examination of a police officer using previously sealed material from an investigation by the West Virginia State Police of some of their officers.

Rush, who was first charged when he was a juvenile, is now facing double murder charges as an adult. He is scheduled to stand trial on December 13 in Calhoun County.

Judge Evans allowed sections of sealed documents to be used by the defendant's attorney Shannon Baldwin.

The documents were from an internal investigation conducted by the West Virginia State Police over allegations some of their officers mishandled the Rush case.

Evans discussed concerns about the "non-disclosure of an investigative report conducted by the State Police," although it is likely that defense attorney Baldwin will use the information in defending her client.

Evans indicated that things have changed since Rush is being tried as an adult. "That was in a juvenile case, this is an adult felony case," he said.

Counselor Baldwin questioned Sgt. Jeff Cooper about the State Police's interrogation of Rush shortly after the murder.

The issue was whether the police violated Rush' rights, particularly when he requested an attorney. Court records indicate a complainant within their agency alleges there were violations of due process linked to inappropriate police behavior.

Evans will rule on whether issues related to statements made by Sgt. Cooper will be suppressed.

Judge Evans denied a motion from Prosecutor Minney to increase the number of individuals to impanel a jury, saying he felt that a lesser number would meet the need. Minney wanted to create a pool of 100 prospective jurors for the selection process.

Judge Thomas Evans III placed bond at $200,000 for Ronnie Rush, denying a request by prosecutor Minney for a cash bond.

There was a discussion that Rush may have planned to escape from a facility where he was being held as a juvenile.

Minney opposed the bond, saying "The stakes have gone up for his fleeing if he is bonded out."

There appeared to be little movement toward a change in venue for the trial, although there was discussion regarding obtaining a jury that did not have an opinion about the case. Attorney Baldwin cited reporting by the Hur Herald and the Calhoun Chronicle.

Evans comment on the issue, saying that court proceedings are open to the press and the public, and there are "very narrow reasons to exclude them." The judge said the issue is not that jurors have heard about the case, but to what extent they have formed an opinion.

Prosecutor Minney made a motion to have jurors go to the scene of the murders for a "jury view," which Evans is taking under advisement.

Issues from a former suppression hearing surfaced yesterday, allowing statements made by Sgt. Doug Starcher and State Policemen Carl Straley to be part of the proceedings, in addition to evidence related to the search of a blue truck.

Prosecutor Minney is seeking a decision regarding the search of an upstairs bedroom in the Groves house, one in which Ronnie Rush may have occupied.

Early in the Groves-Hicks murder case, State Police charged Bobby Ray Shamblin with the double murders, based upon statements given by Ronnie Rush.

Authorities said Rush told them Shamblin entered the Groves house with two shotguns, and held him (Rush) at knife point while Shamblin shot the couple in their beds.

Police could not place Shamblin at the scene of the crime, and he was released on Bond.

State Police claim Rush has changed his story many times about the crime.