Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

October 23, 2012

Officials react to ‘Sins & Secrets: Iaeger’

IAEGER — Area residents, investigators and journalists had varying reactions Monday to a television show describing the 2005 murder of a McDowell County political leader and physician and the investigation that led to two arrests and one conviction.

The Investigation Discovery program “Sins & Secrets” broadcast an episode Sunday about the 2005 murder of Dr. Ebb Keister “Doc” Whitley and the later trials of two suspects, Charles Jason Lively and Tommy Owens. In April, the show’s film crews visited the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and McDowell County to interview people about the case.

The “Sins & Secrets: Iaeger” aired for the first time Sunday, and will air again at noon on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Sunday’s broadcast featured some images of the scenic beauty surrounding Iaeger and the community’s past. Daily Telegraph Editor Samantha Perry, and Assistant Managing Editor Charles Owens, were both interviewed during the show, along with law enforcement personnel across McDowell County.

“It didn’t really degrade us,” said Mayor Joe Ford, who appeared on the show. “I thought it was probably educational for people who didn’t understand a few things about what took place.”

Deputy R.L. Blevins of the McDowell County Sheriff’s Department was also interviewed for the show along with Deputy R.K. Auville. Blevins said the show “took a few liberties” with its recollection of how the investigation was conducted. One problem was how the show presented the suspects investigators considered.

“I know what they were doing. They were trying to make it seem more scandalous than it really was,” Blevins said. “At no time were Dr. Whitley’s children ever considered suspects. And then, at no time, did we ever consider Big Coal (industry) as part of his death.”

The show described the interrogation of one witness who appeared on the show, Brian Salyers, Blevins said.

“The other thing that jumped out at me is when they said we interrogated Brian Salyers for nine to 10 hours,” he said.

A polygraph test was arranged for Salyers, but the polygraph examiner was in Welch conducting a test relating to a different case; the tests can be from four and a half to five hours long, Blevins recalled. Once the examination in Welch was finished, the examiner had to drive to Iaeger and do the other test.

“By that time, that much time (nine to 10 hours) had elapsed, but they made it sound like we were interrogating him all that time,” Blevins said.

Shows filmed by other channels have not always shown southern West Virginia and its people in a positive light, but “Sins & Secrets” did a good job, Editor Samantha Perry said.

“I was a little nervous given the way our area has sometimes been portrayed, but I do think they presented the region in a fair and accurate light,” Perry said. “It was nice to see the shots of the beautiful scenery. They didn’t just focus on the negatives and other things.”

“The show was a good way to present the region to the rest of the country,” Owens said. “I’m more of a print guy than a television guy, but “Sins & Secrets: Iaeger” was a great opportunity to showcase our newspaper, and a high-profile southern West Virginia investigation, to a national audience,” Owens said. “I’m glad the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and its staffers, were well represented. It was good national exposure for the newspaper, and southern West Virginia, including Prosecuting Attorney Sid Bell, and deputies R.L. Blevins and R.K. Auville, among several others, were well represented.”

Charles Lively was convicted of first-degree murder and arson. He is currently serving a life sentence with mercy, meaning he could be eligible for parole in 15 years; however, parole is not guaranteed. Tommy Owens was not convicted in the case, but he is currently serving a prison sentence on an unrelated charge.

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