Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 20, 2013

Mercer judge denies bond in murder case

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A Mercer County Circuit Court judge has denied a motion Friday to set bond for a Brushfork woman facing a charge of first-degree murder.

 Judith Kowaleski, 42, was transported to the Mercer County Courthouse for a bond hearing before Judge William Sadler.

Kowaleski was arrested March 28 and charged with first-degree murder after the death of Elizabeth Slagle, 42, of Bluefield. Slagle was shot at the intersection of Falls Mills and Nichols roads during a confrontation. The women had exchanged phone calls and text messages earlier that day after an altercation between their children aboard a school bus.

Kowaleski has been incarcerated without bond at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver. Magistrate James Dent ruled after a preliminary hearing on April 5 that the case had probable cause.

Attorney Ryan Flanigan, who represented Kowaleski at Friday’s bond hearing, said his client was “completely willing to comply with the state’s requirements.”

Flanigan said he believes that what occurred March 28 was unintentional and not first-degree murder.

Slagle was shot by accident when Kowaleski tried to evade a hand-held stun gun Slagle allegedly attempted to use on her, Flanigan stated. Kowaleski called Mercer County 911 after Slagle was shot, tried to give her first aid, and attempted to give her CPR.

“These are things that are not characteristic of first-degree murder, but are characteristic of an accident,” Flanigan said.

Sadler stated that the circuit court typically does not set bond for cases with serious charges and denied the motion for bond. He said the court is asking prosecutors to see if the case could be presented in June to the Mercer County Grand Jury.

“This is a terrible case and the state has concerns,” Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler said. If Kowaleski were freed on bond, the state would want her to be monitored with a global positioning system and prohibited from contacting Slagle’s family.