Year in Review: Murder, violent offenses top crime, court issues in 2017
Murder and violent crimes against others were two of the more prominent crime issues seen in the area outside of the drug crisis.
There were two murders in Front Royal and one in Warren County outside of the town limits in 2017. This year also saw the conviction of multiple murder cases from previous years.
Bailey Lincoln Powell pleaded guilty on Dec. 19 to the March 25 stabbing death of his girlfriend, 19-year-old Leah Marie Adams. While in Front Royal, Powell stabbed Adams twice in the chest after an argument in a car, prosecutors said, and Adams staggered to a nearby driveway before collapsing. Powell was located and arrested shortly after when Front Royal police responded to a nearby report of an attempted break-in.
Powell was sentenced to serve 16 years in prison for second-degree murder, Powell being 17 years old at the time of the offense and his voluntary LSD intoxication being mitigating factors in the agreement.
A trial in the case involving David Glynn Hoyle – who is accused in the March 27 shooting death of his stepfather, 58-year-old Warren Howard Ramsey – has not yet been set. Hoyle allegedly confessed to the crime when police arrived at Ramsey and Hoyle’s Grand Avenue residence. Hoyle has been charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and a hearing was set for Jan. 3 in Warren County Circuit Court to determine when this case will be tried.
Chad Andrew Ritchie, of Front Royal, was charged in the November death of a 22-month-old boy. The child’s mother, Tabitha Rose Zimmerman, is facing child abuse and neglect charges from the incident involving the deceased boy and his twin brother, who survived but required medical treatment. Court documents indicate evidence of blood inside the ear and around the rectal area of the deceased child, as well as a possible puncture wound to the lower left leg and several bruises to the abdomen, head and left ear.
A preliminary hearing had been set for Dec. 28, but was rescheduled for March 1 in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
A four-day June jury trial in the case involving Clay Marshall Curtis led to his conviction in the shooting death of Front Royal cab driver Simon Funk Jr., 42, on Dec. 9, 2014. Curtis began to develop relationships with Funk and his girlfriend in fall 2014 while Curtis was staying at the Relax Inn in Front Royal. Curtis had to leave the motel in December, and his request to live with Funk was declined.
Funk was assisting Curtis in moving out of the motel and into Curtis’ sister’s house in the Shenandoah Farms neighborhood in Warren County. Funk’s body was found later that night next to Curtis’ sister’s front yard with gunshot wounds to his head and abdomen, and Curtis was later arrested and charged with the crime.
The jury found Curtis guilty of first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and recommended a sentence of life imprisonment that Chief Circuit Judge Clifford L. Athey imposed in September.
Caretaker Frances Charlene Moss-Hopkins entered an Alford plea of guilty in May to second-degree murder in the killing of 85-year-old Peg Sinclair on June 17, 2016. Sinclair was in Moss-Hopkins’ care at the time of the murder in Sinclair’s Lake Frederick home, and prosecutors believe that Moss-Hopkins struck Sinclair in the head 10 times with a hammer after Sinclair threw soiled linens at Moss-Hopkins. Moss-Hopkins then dismembered Sinclair’s body in West Virginia in an attempt to hide the body. Moss-Hopkins later led investigators to the body after confessing to the crime.
After a two-day sentencing hearing, Moss-Hopkins was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison, with her mental illness being a significant mitigating factor in the ruling. The charges of concealing and defiling a dead body were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Samual Jacob Homer was found incompetent to stand trial in the May stabbing of a mother and her two daughters in an Edinburg park. At the time of his arrest, court documents indicated that Homer believed the devil made him commit the crime, and prosecutors indicated in hearings that Homer is mentally handicapped. Homer was charged with three counts of malicious wounding, two counts of attempted murder, and five unrelated counts of child pornography possession.
It was determined that Homer’s competency could potentially be restored, so the court ordered that competency restoration efforts begin while Homer is in custody at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail. A hearing has been set for Feb. 7 in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to evaluate the progress made in the competency restoration efforts.
Two people were convicted of and sentenced on vehicle-related crimes in 2017, one that led to serious injury and the other to a death in 2016.
Brandon Deshawn McClaney pleaded guilty in August to multiple charges after an incident that involved leading state and local police on a multi-county high speed chase in April 2016 along Interstate 81. McClany narrowly avoided hitting Capt. Wes Dellinger with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office during the chase; Dellinger had to jump to safety to avoid being hit, and was injured in the process.
McClaney was sentenced to serve six years and two months in prison for the crime, which included multiple officer assault and felony eluding charges.
Trevor Lee Bryant pleaded guilty in May to involuntary DUI manslaughter after his car’s passenger, 23-year-old Brandi Cook, was killed in a February 2016 crash. Bryant was driving Cook while under the influence of THC, methamphetamine and marijuana, and crashed the passenger side of the vehicle into a tree on Remount Road. The cause of Cook’s death was determined to be blunt-force trauma to her head.
Bryant was sentenced to serve eight years in prison for aggravated vehicular manslaughter and DUI manslaughter charges.
One of the more prominent incidents of robbery this year involved four people from Woodstock and a local diner.
On Jan. 6, Raymond Washington, Andrew Shoemaker and Leonard Garris entered Ben’s Diner in Woodstock in an unsuccessful armed robbery attempt after being driven by Andrea Scalf. All were arrested in the days after the incident; Washington led police on a high-speed chase before he was apprehended.
Scalf was tried and found guilty of robbery conspiracy and child endangerment charges, given that her teenage daughter was working at the diner on the night of the robbery attempt. Scalf was sentenced to serve five years imprisonment for being the driver, and was given a 10-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to unrelated drug charges.
After Scalf’s conviction, Washington pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to the robbery-related charges he was facing, and his subsequent request to withdraw those pleas were denied. Washington was sentenced to serve 11 years imprisonment for his role in the robbery.
Shoemaker, who testified against Scalf, was sentenced to two years and six months after entering a plea agreement on charges from the robbery as well as drug and indecent liberties charges. Garris, who also testified against Scalf, has yet to enter a plea in this case, and his next hearing is set for Jan. 10 in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.