PRINCETON — Separate preliminary hearings were held Thursday for three suspects – two with alleged gang affiliation– facing charges of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the December 2019 shooting death of a man at a Brushfork home.
Deliezha Gravely, 23 and Kaleb Jordan Merritt, 23, appeared for individual preliminary hearings before Magistrate Mike Flanigan. A third preliminary hearing was held for a third suspect in the case, Deron Yarrell, no age available, before Magistrate William Holroyd. Gravely and Merritt belong to the Dirty Money Gang that operates in the Bluefield area to sell controlled substances, Detective Cpl. M.S. Horn of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department said in a criminal complaint.
All three men and a fourth person, Andrea Paige Fry, 20, of Bluefield, are suspects in the Dec. 22, 2019 death of Edward Earl Duck III. The case began when deputies with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department found Duck in a car parked outside a Brushfork Road home when they answered a complaint from a male individual stating he had been shot. Duck, who had been shot once, later died at Bluefield Regional Medical Center.
All four suspects are facing charges of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and conspiracy. Flanigan ruled that there was probable cause in the cases of Gravely and Merritt, and sent them to the Mercer County Grand Jury. Holroyd ruled there was probable cause in Yarrell’s case and forwarded it to the grand jury as well.
Horn testified during Gravely’s hearing about how he was called to the scene in December 2019 after Duck was found in a car outside 3379 Brushfork Road. Duck first told deputies that his name was Bobby Campbell, but investigators soon learned his real name. He had a single gunshot wound near the right of his collar bone. A single .45-caliber shell casing was found between a space heater and a mattress in the house along with about 1.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. Robbery was the apparent motive behind the incident.
The shell casing had marks showing it was fired from a “striker” type .40-caliber firearm, Horn said. A Springfield XD .40-caliber was found in a vehicle with Merritt when he was stopped by an officer with the Bluefield Police Department for a seat belt violation. This pistol uses the same striker system as the gun which ejected the shell found at Brushfork; however, tests must be conducted to determine whether it is the weapon which was used in the shooting.
Horn testified that he received leads about the suspects’ identities from a confidential informant. Attorney Derrick Lefler, who was representing Gravely with attorney William Huffman, asked about the informant’s identity. Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler objected, saying this “will endanger the life and well being of this person.” Flanigan did not require Horn to speak about the informant’s identity.
Lefler asked that Gravely’s case not be bound over to the grand jury, arguing that the case for a murder prosecution “was just not there,” and that information against his client came from “second and third-hand hearsay.”
During Merritt’s preliminary hearing, Horn testified that Fry said during an interview after she was apprehended in Beckley the Merritt was the person who shot Duck. She stated that after the incident, they talked about getting rid of the gun, but Merritt told them he could file down its barrel’s rifling.
Merritt’s attorney, Joseph Harvey, said that the only evidence against his client was a gun that was same type of caliber and firing system as the one that left the shell at the Brushfork home. Harvey stated in his closing argument that many companies manufacture such guns, and that the state “failed miserably to meet probable cause.”
Yarrell and Gravely are being held without bond. Merritt is being held on a $250,000 bond.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com