CLAY BOMB CASE SENTENCING POSTPONED - Sheriff Holcomb Hit Over Meth Efforts

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. postponed the sentencing yesterday of a Clay County man who admitted he tried to blow up Clay County sheriff Randy Holcomb in 2005. The man's attorneys argued that he was receiving a harsher sentence than his co-defendant.

Donnie Welch, 26, admitted that he and Samuel Todd Murphy, 38, tried to kill the sheriff with a homemade bomb.

The attack against Sheriff Holcomb came after he vigorously cracked down on meth labs in the county, making dozens of arrests.

Murphy pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered bomb and the use of a telephone to facilitate a conspiracy to distribute marijuana in August 2006.

He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Welch pleaded guilty to possession of a bomb, making a false statement to federal agents, being a drug addict in possession of a gun and perjury.

The Charleston Gazette reported Welch's attorneys objected after a pre-sentence report from the probation department recommended a significant enhancement to his sentence because the intended target for the bomb was a government official.

It seems there was an apparent oversight in Murphy's case, the enhancement not being applied.

In order to be fair, the enhancement should not be applied to Welch, the attorneys argued.

With the enhancement, Welch's minimum sentence would be more than double Murphy's total sentence, reported the Gazette.

Welch reportedly played a lesser role in the bomb plot.

"When the bomb itself was placed, Mr. Welch accompanied Mr. Murphy to the place where it was to be set and held the flashlight while Mr. Murphy fixed the wires that activated the instrument," Judge Copenhaver said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Monica Schwartz said it was not clear who held the flashlight.

Welch's sentencing is now postponed to Nov. 5.

According to the court record, Murphy and Welch planned to kill Holcomb to protect their own meth activities.

In Aug. 2005, they placed a bomb under a box at Eagle Bend near Dundon Bridge, near the Town of Clay, a few feet from the Elk River.

The following day they made an anonymous call to the sheriff's department, reporting a meth lab at that location.

Before Sheriff Holcomb investigated the tip, the bomb was detonated by Clay locals Ronnie Hamm and David Corkrean.

They set off the bomb while looking for pop cans to recycle. Hamm suffered wounds to his hands, legs and ears when the bomb partially detonated.