TAZEWELL, Va. — A special grand jury session indicted a local man Friday on a charge of capital murder, making him eligible for Virginia’s death penalty.
The Tazewell County Grand Jury issued a true bill against Shaun Matthew Wakefield, 33, of Tazewell for one count of capital murder, one count of grand larceny of a motor vehicle and one count of concealing a dead body, Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Lee Dennis said.
Wakefield was arrested on March 29 for the murder of Danielle Louise Pruett, who went missing on March 17. Pruett’s body was found off Route 720 near Bluefield, Va. approximately 24 hours after she was reported missing. Local law enforcement agencies conducted an extensive search.
A preliminary autopsy report showed that Pruett suffered injuries that were indicative of blunt force trauma, Dennis said. Wakefield is currently being held without bond at the Abingdon Regional Jail.
“Based on the continuing investigation surrounding the brutal murder of Danielle Pruett, a young mother of three children, I believe the circumstances of this killing more than justifies our decision to charge Wakefield with capital murder,” Dennis stated. “Wakefield is now facing the death penalty.”
Dennis later said the decision on whether to seek the death penalty had not been made, but “once he has counsel in place, we can begin looking at that.”
At the time of the murder, Wakefield was on bond for a current felony charge of larceny, third or subsequent offense and was subsequently charged with altering a drug screen on March 18, both of which are scheduled to be heard in Tazewell County General District Court, Dennis said in a press release. He is currently on probation for convictions out of Alexandria, Va. for burglary, larceny, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and drug charges.
Prior to the grand jury indictment, Wakefield was brought before Judge George Robert Brittain II for a preliminary hearing on first-degree murder in the Pruett case.
Dennis moved to dismiss the first-degree murder charge nolle prosequi, which Brittain granted.
Attorney Monica Gonzalez, who is representing Wakefield with attorney Dennis Lee, later said they objected to the commonwealth’s motion because it denied their client the right to a preliminary hearing. The judge did grant a $50,000 bond on a larceny charge Wakefield is facing.
“The commonwealth moved to nolle prosequi the case, which is a dismissal without prejudice,” Gonzalez said of the first-degree murder charge. “He (commonwealth’s attorney) advised the court that he intended to proceed on a warrant on other charges. We don’t know what charges he presented.”
After the first-degree murder charge was dismissed, Dennis immediately went before the special grand jury session.
Lee said he believed that his client “should have been given his day in court,” Lee said, adding that the defense based its objection on the argument that Wakefield was entitled to a hearing before the district court to determine whether there was probable cause for the charge of murder.
“This happening today, he’s been denied that hearing,” Lee stated.
The case was investigated by the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, Bluefield, Va. Police Department and Virginia State Police with assistance from District 43 Probation & Parole Office and officers with Community Corrections of Clinch Valley Community Action.
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org