PRINCETON — A series of new trial dates were set Tuesday in Mercer County Circuit Court as judges, attorneys and defendants alike wore masks and worked with videoconferencing and the precautionary guidelines imposed by the continuing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The court proceedings included new trial dates for a Mercer County man and woman facing murder and child neglect charges in the 2018 death of a 2-year-old boy who had suffered burns, broken bones, brain bleeds and other signs of severe abuse.
Both Candace Jones, 33, who is being held at the South Central Regional Jail and John Collin Powers, 47, now at the Southern Regional Jail, appeared by videoconference hearings before Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills. The Mercer County Courthouse and the neighboring courthouse annex reopened to the public Monday, but guidelines are in place to hinder the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Powers and Jones wore masks at the jails, and everyone in the courtroom including Judge Wills wore masks.
Jones is facing charges including death by a parent, guardian or custodian and child neglect resulting in death in the homicide of her son, Joseph “JoJo” Garbosky III.
Jones allegedly watched Powers, then her live-in boyfriend, body slam her son into a bathtub, inflict a third-degree burn on his arm and engage in abuse that resulted in several broken bones, retinal hemorrhages, brain bleeds and subdural hematomas/blood clots, according to the criminal complaint.
Powers is facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of the child, plus charges of death by a parent, guardian or custodian and child abuse resulting in serious injury.
Injuries to the child were inflicted at least two weeks prior to the time he was brought to a hospital on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Child Protective Services were not notified until the time the child was taken to the hospital.
According to a criminal complaint filed by West Virginia State Police Sgt. M.D. Clemons, now retired, the investigation started when Clemons was called to the hospital to investigate the child’s injuries, which included retinal hemorrhages, brain bleeds, subdural hematomas/blood clots and healing third-degree burns on his right arm. The child also had a healing left scapular fracture and right-rib fracture, both of which were more than 14 days old, and a corner fracture of his right upper arm.
Jones and Powers are both being held on $500,000 cash-only bonds.
The jury trial for Powers was scheduled to start Tuesday, but the ongoing pandemic has forced courts to reschedule trials. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that jury trials cannot resume until after June 28.
Wills reset both trials for late September.
The state was represented by Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney David Pfeifer. Jones was represented at Tuesday’s hearing by attorneys Joe Harvey and Wyclif Farquharson. Powers was represented in court by attorneys Brandon Austin and Josh Lawson.
In another case on the court docket, a new trial date was set for Marlene Sexton Robinson of Freeman. Robinson,who wore a mask per current courthouse rules, appeared in person for a status hearing.
Robinson was indicted in October 2018 on three counts of felony child abuse. The incident leading to one charge occurred at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 school year and was investigated by the West Virginia State Police. Detective Sgt. S.A. Sommers of the Mercer County Sheriff’s then received a complaint in late September 2018 about incidents that allegedly happened Sept. 12 and Oct. 1, 2018. The three incidents occurred at Bluewell Elementary School.
A new trial date was set for mid-August. Robinson, who is currently free on bond, was represented Tuesday by attorney Ward Morgan. Robinson appeared by videoconference.
Another new trial date was set for Alexander Duane Hamilton, 48, who is currently being held at the Southern Regional Jail on a $50,000 cash-only bond. Hamilton was arrested in November 2019 and charged with first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree sexual assault. According to an interview of the juvenile victim conducted by Child Protect and the West Virginia State, Hamilton had touched the victim on many occasions.
Wills set a new trial date for mid-August. Hamilton was represented by attorney Ward Morgan.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com