Murder charge reduced before start of trial

By David Hedges, Publisher

For the second time, a Spencer man saw a murder charge leveled against him more than two years ago dismissed.

Daniel Wayne Kelly, 25, now will be tried for malicious wounding in connection with the death of another man at a party at a local trailer park.

Kelly's murder trial was to begin Tuesday, but attorneys on both sides agreed that he would instead face a lesser charge for the October 2004 death of Jason Wayne Coon.

Cabell County Prosecutor Christopher Chiles, acting as a special prosecutor in the case, said in a hearing Tuesday morning that there was not enough evidence to obtain a murder conviction.

"It became apparent to me there was a real question if the state had sufficient evidence of an intent to kill," Chiles told Roane Circuit Judge David Nibert.

In some last-minute maneuvering Monday, a jury pool of 40 people that had been slated to report the following day was called off until Wednesday, when the malicious wounding trial was to begin.

Chiles said he had discussed the case with the investigating officer, Chief Deputy Jeff Smith of the Roane Sheriff's Dept., and members of the alleged victim's family before making his request to dismiss the murder charge.

Smith had said earlier that there was no evidence of premeditation.

Kelly's court-appointed attorneys, Teresa Monk and Dennis Curry, agreed to the change.

Kelly also had to give his approval. After waiving his right to have the new charge considered by a grand jury, and agreeing to be charged by information rather than indictment, Kelly entered a not guilty plea to the charge.

If convicted, Kelly could receive a sentence of 2-to-10 years on the reduced charge. A murder conviction could have resulted in life in prison.

This is the second time the murder charge has been dismissed.

In a preliminary hearing shortly after Kelly's arrest more than two years ago, Roane Magistrate Russell Goodwin dismissed the charge for lack of evidence.

The charge was reinstated when the grand jury met in January 2005.

In October 2005, Roane prosecutor Mark Sergent and defense attorneys had agreed to allow Kelly to plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful wounding that carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail.

After members of Coon's family staged a protest outside the courthouse, Nibert rejected the plea deal...

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