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By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- The suspected shooter in the March 6 slaying of a Frederick County man in West Virginia was out on bond from Maryland at the time of the incident, awaiting trial on an unrelated drug charge, authorities said Friday.
The Berkeley County Sheriff's Department obtained a warrant for the arrest of Jonathan F. Bennett, 39, on a charge of murder, Lt. Gary Harmison said Friday. The agency on Thursday publicly named Bennett as the triggerman in the slaying of 26-year-old Geronimo Garcia-Cruz, an illegal immigrant living in the country for the past six years, most recently at 102 Camden Drive, east of Winchester.
Garcia-Cruz died from an apparent gunshot wound to the head at close range, according to Berkeley County authorities. The incident occurred at Suncrest Apartments, 2998 Winchester Ave., outside Martinsburg.
Hagerstown police arrested Bennett three days after the shooting, according to online records that show the suspect, who has a last known address of Charlottesville, stands charged in Washington County District Court with 12 counts, including drug distribution and possession with intent to distribute on March 8.
An official with the detention center in Washington County said Bennett received a $150,000 bond for his drug charges but remains held on a detainer. If Bennett posts bail, he would then be served a fugitive from justice warrant from Berkeley County, the official said.
Bennett likely may not come to Berkeley County to face the murder charge until the Washington County courts dispose of their cases, Harmison said.
At the time of the shooting, Bennett had been free on a personal recognizance bond awaiting trial in the Washington County court on a Nov. 30 misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession, according to records and a court official.
Bennett faces a trial in the court on the earlier charge May 5. A preliminary hearing on Bennett's recent cases is set for April 6.
Meanwhile, co-defendant Ashley Nicole Carpegna, 26, of 2998 Winchester Ave., No. 10, Martinsburg, remains free after her $40,000 bond was posted Thursday, Harmison said. Berkeley County authorities charged Carpegna with acting as an accessory after the fact in the murder. Officials accuse Carpegna of cleaning up blood from the scene of the shooting and making misleading statements to investigators.
Hagerstown authorities also arrested Carpegna two days after the shooting on unrelated drug charges, according to Berkeley County law enforcement officials. She went free after someone posted her $75,000 bail, officials said at a news conference held Tuesday in Martinsburg. Records show Carpegna is charged in the Washington County court with six drug-related offenses, all of which occurred March 8. She faces a preliminary hearing in the court April 6.
Authorities at the news conference said law enforcement in another jurisdiction had arrested a "person of interest" sought in the case on unrelated drug charges. The individual, who officials would not name at the conference, remained incarcerated at the jail in that jurisdiction.
Bennett is originally from New York and has lived in Virginia, according to Harmison. Bennett had been staying off and on at the apartment where the shooting occurred, Harmison said.
Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact the investigations division of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department at 304-267-7000.