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Posted May 16, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Judge recuses himself from embezzlement case

By Joe Beck

The trial of a Strasburg woman on drug charges linked to the alleged theft of thousands of dollars from a charitable trust fund reserved for a child's medical expenses is off for now.

Jessica Lynn Taylor was scheduled to go on trial June 12, but her attorney, Jerry Talton of Front Royal, said Monday the trial has been canceled after a hearing last week in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.

"We told the judge we didn't want a jury trial," Talton said.

Talton had said at a previous court appearance that Taylor was likely to enter guilty pleas to several embezzlement charges, but Judge Dennis L. Hupp said last week he was recusing himself from the case. In doing so, Hupp left the remainder of the case to be heard by a different judge who will be appointed by the chief judge in the 26th Judicial District.

Taylor is accused of embezzling money from a bank account she was appointed to oversee by the family of the late Trent Williams. The 8-year-old boy died last summer after prolonged cancer treatment. His death set off an emotional outpouring throughout Strasburg and beyond.

Authorities say Trent Williams's family set up the account to pay for the boy's medical expenses, but found only $69 when they checked it after his death.

Police say they recovered painkillers prescribed for Trent Williams after a search of Taylor's home.

Taylor was scheduled to go on trial June 12 on three charges of illegal drug possession. She is also charged with five counts of embezzlement that were to be the subject of the May 8 hearing, but must now await the appointment of a new judge.

Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda M. Wiseley said Hupp recused himself out of concern that he had too many personal connections to the events of the case and town of Strasburg.

Court records show Taylor paid restitution of $2,266 on Feb. 6 to the Williams family.

"She paid restitution to the court for the full amount that was claimed," Talton said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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