Charges dropped in meth lab case

The case of a Belington man facing a felony charge of operating or attempting to operate a clandestine lab was dismissed in Barbour County Magistrate Court recently because no special prosecuting attorney had been appointed by the time of his preliminary hearing.

It does not mean that the case of Adam Seth Keplinger, 32, has been permanently dismissed, however.

The charges could be reinstated through Circuit Court or through the grand jury.

The search for a special prosecuting attorney began when Barbour County Prosecuting Attorney Leckta Poling recused herself from the case against Keplinger, of 116 Highland Ave. She said she could not ethically serve as the prosecutor on the case because she served as his defense attorney on a similar case in the past. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Nines also could not represent Keplinger because he works for Poling.

“There were ethical reasons why neither of them could represent the state in that case,” Barbour County Magistrate Kathi McBee said in court Feb. 13.

Preliminary hearings are required to take place within 10 days of the arrest. Feb. 13 was the last possible day to schedule Keplinger’s preliminary hearing.

“The institute had not appointed anyone,” McBee said. “I guess they didn’t get the paperwork until two days before the hearing.”

According to court records, Keplinger allegedly climbed through the window of a friend’s home in Belington, where a Belington Police Department officer and other law enforcement officials found an active methamphetamine lab in a bedroom closet.

They also found Keplinger inside the home, according to the criminal complaint filed in Magistrate Court.

Despite that charge being dismissed, Keplinger remains in jail on separate drug-related charges. He is being held at the Tygart Valley Regional Jail on one felony count of operating or attempting to operate a clandestine lab, and three felony counts of possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance. The charges were brought against him in July.

Poling also recused herself from those pending charges. Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker was appointed on those cases.

Keplinger’s surety bonds for those charges, totaling $50,000, were revoked. The case is still pending in Barbour County Circuit Court.