Two charged with murder in Winchester

Two Winchester men were arrested and charged Sunday with first-degree murder in the early morning death of a 47-year-old man in his townhouse residence.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office identified the victim as James Charles Westfall, 47, also of Winchester.

The defendants, Mark Syme, 23, and Christopher Baker, 39, have also been charged with breaking and entering to commit first-degree murder.

Sheriff’s Office Capt. Donnie Lang said the department received several 911 calls around 4:15 a.m. reporting a disturbance at 208 Hunter Run Road.

“The main 911 call came from neighbors next door to 208,” Lang said, adding that the dispatcher could hear “some type of banging noise, which would indicate (the defendants) were forcing the door open.”

Lang said Monday afternoon he was still awaiting results from an autopsy to determine an official cause of death, but Westfall appeared to have died from “a sharp object used to facilitate a stabbing.”

Lang said authorities are still trying to determine the specific type of weapon that was used to kill Westfall.

Lang said sheriff’s deputies arriving at the scene noticed someone had forced open a door leading into the rear basement where they found Westfall’s lifeless body.

Lang said authorities are still trying to determine the motive for the attack on Westfall.

“There have been some previous encounters between the three,” Lang said, referring to Westfall, Baker and Syme. “They were acquaintances.”

A news release said the arrests were based on interviews, evidence collected at the crime scene and other evidence gathered from the residence of Baker and Syme

Lang said Westfall was staying temporarily in the townhouse with several other occupants, none of who had anything to do with the crime.

“The occupants were allowing him to be there until he could find something more permanent,” Lang said of Westfall.

Baker and Syme are being held without bail in the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.

Their next scheduled court appearances are preliminary hearings at 9 a.m. Feb. 13 in Frederick County General District Court.

Symes’ criminal court record in Frederick County includes several counts of assault on teachers or other school officials and several counts of assaults on law enforcement officials.

Baker’s previous criminal charges in Frederick County include single counts of grand larceny and a fugitive from felony criminal proceedings.

<em>Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or <a href=“mailto:jbeck@nvdaily.com”>jbeck@nvdaily.com</a></em>