Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 1, 2013

Suspect who fled scene of deadly attempted robbery appears in court

PRINCETON — A McDowell County woman who was initially charged with first-degree murder after her husband was shot and killed in 2011 during an attempted armed robbery at a Bramwell convenience store appeared Tuesday for a hearing in Mercer County Circuit Court.

Jessica Persianni Roberts, 40, current address unavailable, was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in August 2011 after the death of her husband, 41-year-old David Douglas Roberts of Crumpler. According to investigators with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, David Roberts entered the Pop Shop near Bramwell while wearing a mask and carrying a shotgun.

During the confrontation inside the store, a customer with a concealed weapons permit shot David Roberts several times. Roberts then ran outside where he dropped money taken during the robbery. Jessica Roberts, who was allegedly waiting outside, picked up an unknown amount of cash and drove from the scene. The customer was not charged. David Roberts died while in route to the Bluefield Regional Medical Center.

Tuesday’s hearing before Circuit Court Judge William Sadler was a continuation of a suppression hearing concerning a statement Jessica Roberts gave to investigators after her arrest, said Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash.

“The judge took the evidence under advisement and said he would issue an opinion later,” Ash said.

A trial has been scheduled to begin May 14.

The first-degree murder charge was dropped after the West Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling about a similar case in Hancock County, Ash said. During this incident, two burglars broke into a home. One suspect was shot and killed by the homeowner, and the other suspect was charged with felony murder.

The state Supreme Court’s justices ruled the case had to involve “the death of an innocent” for the other burglary suspect to be charged with murder, Ash said. Courts in most other states have ruled the other way. In those cases, anybody involved in a crime can be charged with murder if a person — another suspect, victim or bystander — is killed while that crime is being committed.

Jessica Roberts, who is currently free on bond, still faces a first-degree robbery charge. A conviction carries a penalty of at least 10 years in prison. There is no maximum sentence, Ash said.

“I’ve seen 80 and 100-year sentences in those cases,” he said.

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