By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A Mercer County Circuit judge denied bond Monday for two men facing charges of first-degree murder in the death of a Summers County man who regularly commuted through Mercer County.
Oscar Combs Sr., 44, of Bud, and Oscar Combs Jr., 21, of Herndon, were brought before Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope for separate bond hearings. Both were arrested recently in connection with the April 2011 murder of James “Bo” Butler, 55, of Summers County.
Butler was shot execution-style in the back of his head along Route 10 at Herndon Mountain in Mercer County, Cpl. A.S. Reed of the West Virginia State Police said in his arrest report. The alleged motive for the shooting was robbery.
Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash said during both hearings that the state opposed bond due to the seriousness of the charge and the possibility that both men were a flight risk. Judge Swope denied bond in each case and remanded Combs Sr. and Combs Jr. back to the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.
Oscar Combs Sr. waived his time limit for a preliminary hearing, according to Magistrate James Dent. After Monday’s the bond hearings, Oscar Combs Jr. was brought to the Mercer County Courthouse Annex where he chose to have his scheduled preliminary hearing before Dent.
Reed testified during this hearing that new information became available when a confidential informant told investigators about hearing the father and son discuss Butler’s murder. With this information, the murder weapon was located, Reed said.
Both the father and son gave investigators conflicting statements about who had shot Butler. At first, the senior Combs and his son named each other as the shooter, but later Oscar Combs Jr. said he fired the shot, but he did it under duress because he feared his father, Reed said after the hearing.
Magistrate Dent ruled there was probable cause in the case of Oscar Combs Jr.
Combs Sr. and Butler had worked together in Wyoming County in the past. Butler still worked at the same company, Reed stated in his arrest report.
On the morning of April 4, 2011, Combs Sr. expected Butler to have money since he had recently received a paycheck, Reed stated. The elder Combs and his son decided to rob Butler, according to the complaint, which also alleged that Combs Jr. told his father that he would kill Butler.
Prior to the shooting, Combs Sr. contacted Butler on the pretense that he had “clamps” that Butler needed, the complaint said.
The Combs men met Butler on Herndon Mountain Road in Mercer County so that Butler could pick up the clamps. Combs Sr. told police that he met with Butler and took the clamps from his own truck, placing them in Butler’s vehicle, according to the report.
As Combs Sr. engaged Butler in conversation, Combs Jr. sneaked up on Butler from behind and shot him in the back of the head, instantly killing him, Reed said in his report.
Butler’s supervisor contacted Butler’s family, alerting them that Butler — a model employee — had not shown up for work, according to police.
Butler’s sister then filed a missing persons complaint in Summers County. An intense search for Butler was conducted along the route of his daily commute.
His body was discovered two or three weeks after the murder on Crumpler Road in Wyoming County, several miles from the Mercer-Wyoming line.
During the preliminary hearing, Reed said the men painted Butler’s truck and later cut it up. Some of metal was thrown over hills while the rest was taken to West Virginia Recycling in Princeton.
Butler’s body was taken to Wyoming County in his truck, and both Combs Sr. and Combs Jr. allegedly took turns driving it. The father drove it first, but later pulled over and had his son take over because the father said he “couldn’t stand it no more” and wanted to be away from the body, Reed said.
Jessica Farrish of the The Register-Herald contributed to this report.