Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

August 8, 2012

2011 Princeton homicide: 2 suspects in custody

PRINCETON — Click here for video

An arraignment was soon followed by a bond hearing Monday for two Mercer County residents facing first-degree murder and other charges relating to the 2011 murder of a Princeton man.

Investigators with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department arrested Tammy Lee Keen, 39, and Thomas Tyler Hall, 39, both of Princeton, in connection with the March 13, 2011 murder of Timothy DeWitt, 41, of Princeton. Both Keen and Hall are facing felony charges of first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy.

 DeWitt was found in March 2011 off Eads Mill Road near the Bluestone Falls area known as the gorge. Workers performing maintenance on an Interstate 77 bridge spanning the gorge spotted the body and notified authorities.

During the arraignment at the Mercer County Courthouse Annex, Magistrate James Dent told both defendants about the charges they are facing and the possible penalties. A conviction on first-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison. Robbery carries a prison term of not less than 10 years, and conspiracy has a penalty of one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Dent explained to Keen and Hall that bond would be set by a circuit court judge. A preliminary hearing will be conducted within 10 days unless the time limit is waived or the hearing itself is waived, he said.

Following arraignment, both Hall and Keen were taken to an upstairs courtroom for a bond hearing before Judge Omar Aboulhosn. Attorney Paul Cassell was appointed to represent Keen, and Public Defender Sarah Harmon was appointed to represent Hall.

Cassell told the judge that Keen had no prior criminal record, and has a medical condition that requires continuous treatment. Cassell said she has been residing with an uncle in Princeton, and would abide by court orders if released.

Cassell asked that a reasonable bond amount be set.

Hall was born and raised in Princeton, and does odd jobs for his mother, Harmon said. His criminal history includes a nonviolent felony from 10 years ago. Harmon also asked that a reasonable bond be set.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kelli Harshbarger said the state objected to bond being set in either case.

“We do not feel either of these cases are appropriate for bond,” she said.

Aboulhosn ordered that both Hall and Keen be held without bond at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.

Sheriff Don Meadows spoke to the media after the arraignment. Murder investigations, especially difficult ones like the DeWitt case, can taken months or years to resolve.

 “What people have to realize is that this is not television,” Meadows said.

Detectives and deputies worked hard on the case for 17 months. Anytime they received new information, they followed up on it, he said.

“They did some hard work and some work where you think you’re going to get something good and it doesn’t pan out, but it’s not a case where anybody laid down. They worked on it all the time,” Meadows said. “We had to wait until we got a break.”

Detective R.M. Combs, the lead investigator, said the department had little to go on when the investigation started last year.

“This is probably one of the hardest investigations I’ve had in my career as far as murder investigations go,” Combs said. “You wait for a certain piece of evidence you can go to court with.”

The sheriff’s department had to wait for the results of tests at the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab, said Detective L.B. Murphy. The laboratory has been good to work on the case with and expedite testing whenever possible, Combs added.

Combs said robbery was the motive behind DeWitt’s murder.

DeWitt had known Tammy Lee Keen, he said. Four people were involved in the murder, and two more arrests are pending.

DeWitt had been shot multiple times, Combs said. A .357 Magnum revolver had been recovered, and a search is still underway for a .380 automatic pistol.�

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