CHARLESTON- In a unanimous vote, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a murder conviction in a 2012 Wood County case.
In the case of West Virginia v. Brent Radabaugh, the court declined to set aside the verdict.
In its decision last month, the court stated there was no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. Under those circumstances, the court said it was appropriate to issue the ruling in a memo. There were no oral arguments in the appeal.
Radabaugh was indicted by the September 2010 grand jury on a charge of first-degree murder of Rebecca Hoyler in April 2010. On Aug. 17, 2012 the jury found the petitioner guilty of murder in the first degree and recommended mercy.
On Oct.29, 2012, Radabaugh was sentenced to a term of life with mercy.
Prosecutors said Radabaugh and Hoyler used cocaine at Hoyler's Parkersburg residence on the night of April 12, 2010 and the early morning hours of April 13.
Review Of The Case
* A 2012 Wood County Circuit Court murder conviction was upheld by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
* In its decision issued by memo, the court declined to overturn the conviction of Brent Radabaugh in the murder of Rebecca Hoyler.
* The court ruled there were no errors and there was nothing in the record to show the state did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the trial witnesses said the two had a monetary dispute that morning. Radabaugh was seen leaving Hoyler's residence carrying a large plastic garbage bag at 1:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. he was seen driving Hoyler's car and wearing different clothes.
Her body was found around 5 p.m. in an upstairs bedroom and a box of garbage bags were open in the kitchen. Radabaugh attempted suicide around 6 p.m. and voluntarily met with police later in the evening, officials said.
In the appeal, Radabaugh's attorney, George Cosenza, said there were two assignments of error.
One was the circuit court erred by admitting a gruesome photo of the victim. He argued the judge determined the probative value was great enough to allow for its admission.
"This Court cannot say the trial judge abused his discretion," the memo stated. "The Court cannot say that this one picture prejudiced the jury more than any other, particularly since jurors in a murder case are likely to view photos of the crime scene.
"Any possible error regarding the photo is nothing more than a harmless error."
In past decisions the court noted it ruled when improper evidence of a nonconstitutional nature is introduced, the error is harmless if the state's case could have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt without the introduction of the improper evidence, and if the improper introduction had no prejudicial effect on the jury.
In the June 28 memo the court stated the record shows the state proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.
A second claim was the jury's verdict was against the evidence. The court disagreed calling the claim a blanket statement of error lacking specifics and merit.
In the ruling the court said a verdict should be set aside only when the record contains no evidence from which the jury could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
"The state proved the victim was killed by sharp force injuries directed to the face, neck, left arm, and right hand," the court stated. "The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be an unlawful killing."
It was noted by the court the state presented evidence that the petitioner had a guilty conscience, as the officer questioning the petitioner on the night of April 13 stated the petitioner appeared "very nervous."
"To further show a guilty conscience, the state presented testimony that the petitioner attempted suicide on the evening of April 13," the court stated. "Concerning motive, the state presented evidence that the victim and the petitioner were involved in a monetary dispute on the morning of April 13, 2010.
"On this evidence, a reasonable jury could have concluded that the defendant killed the victim."