8. Little charged with March 1 stabbing death of Buckner.
A Princeton man was found stabbed to death at his Honaker Avenue home in Princeton on March 1. Prosecutors said Jerry Buckner, the brother of former sheriff and magistrate Harold Buckner, died from more than 30 stab wounds to his neck and throat.
Gerald W. Little, 60, of Princeton, was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and burglary in connection with the death of Jerry Buckner.
Little pleaded not guilty on Oct. 22 to all the charges. He faces the possibility of life in prison. Defense attorneys for Little are currently seeking a change of venue in the case.
The senior status judge assigned to the case, John S. Hrko, heard motions in late December in Mercer County Circuit Court calling for the trial’s venue to be changed, the removal of Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash from the case due to a conflict of interest, and a psychiatric evaluation for Little.
Defense Attorney Derrick Lefler, who is representing Little and seeking a change of venue, argues that relatives of Jerry Buckner work both in the Mercer County Circuit Clerk’s Office and the prosecutor’s office. Hrko said Ash has frequent contact with these relatives, and that these relatives would have contact with potential jurors.
In a separate case, Little was indicted on a charge of failure to register as a sex offender. Little was convicted on July 24, 2007 in Raleigh County on a charge of sexual abuse. Little had failed to report that he had dropped out of a trucking school that he was attending. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge.
9. Long-awaited Bramwell segment of Hatfield-McCoy Trail opens in Mercer County.
Plans for the Hatfield-McCoy Trail actually date back to 1996, and that’s when Mercer County was first proposed as one of the counties for the southern West Virginia-based trail system. However, it took until Memorial Day weekend of 2012 before the first 100-plus miles of trails were opened in Mercer County near Bramwell.
A community connector system to the town of Matoaka also is still planned by trail officials, and advocated by town officials in Matoaka. And the city of Bluefield is working to bring off-road visitors into the city as well.
The new trail system is already having a positive impact on Mercer County — and the town of Bramwell in particular. Mayor Louise Stoker says the town has seen visitors from as far away as New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky and Canada.
Permit sales along the five-county trail system also were up 10 percent in 2012 from 2011, according to Hatfield-McCoy Trails Executive Director Jeff Lusk.