Murder-for-hire trial could be continued

Although originally scheduled for April 30, the trial of two men charged with murder in the death of a 29-year-old Buckhannon man may be continued, pending the ruling of Senior Status Judge John Henning.

During pre-trial conferences for Jessie Lee Heater, 29, of Buckhannon, and Robert Eugene Siron III, 30, of Weston, in Upshur County Circuit Court Thursday, Henning said he would take under advisement Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney Jake Reger’s motion to continue the trial until the next term of court.

Heater and Siron are accused of murdering Joshua Oberg and have been lodged in separate regional jails since authorities arrested them in July 2012, after unearthing Oberg’s body from a shallow grave along Bull Run Road in Upshur County. In January, an Upshur County grand jury indicted both Heater and Siron on murder charges; each man also was indicted on one felony count of concealment of a deceased human body and two counts of felony conspiracy.

Reger said he was seeking a continuance in light of the fact that he’d just turned the discovery over to the defense.

“I’ve just recently been able to provide all the discovery to the defense, and I have not received the medical examiner’s report, so I think there’s good cause to continue it to the next term of court,” Reger said.

Heater’s attorney, James Hawkins, objected to the motion for continuance and asked that the court exclude any evidence turned over beyond the discovery deadline.

“This matter has been under investigation since January 2012, and the body of the alleged victim was discovered in July 2012,” Hawkins said. “Since that time, my client’s been in jail continuously. We asked for discovery in a timely manner, but we did not receive it in a timely manner.

“It just seems ridiculous that (the state medical examiner’s officer) could not have provided that report to Mr. Reger,” Hawkins said.

“I in no way question Mr. Reger’s conduct in this matter. … However, this must be imputed to him because it’s a matter of the state not providing it to him through their various agencies,” he added.

Siron’s attorney, Steve Nanners, similarly objected to Reger’s motion for continuance. Saying his client had a right to a speedy trial, Nanners, like Hawkins, made a motion to exclude evidence the prosecution had turned over to him after the discovery deadline had passed. Nanners also pointed out Reger had chosen not to indict Siron and Heater in September 2012, but, rather, waited until January 2013.

“This is a very complicated case,” Nanners said. “The discovery is 100 pages long, and Mr. Reger has not provided any early discovery.”

Reger countered the matter was “complicated” since Oberg’s body was found about six months after he was slain.

“This isn’t a case where someone is murdered and the body’s found immediately,” Reger said.

Henning said he would take both sides’ arguments under advisement and asked that a motion hearing be scheduled “as soon as is reasonably possible,” perhaps next week.

West Virginia State Police investigators have testified they believe Rodolpho “Chino” Correa Villagomez, of Buckhannon, paid Heater $5,000 to kill Oberg after Villagomez learned that Oberg had become romantically involved with Villagomez’s wife.

Troopers also have testified that Siron claimed in a statement to investigators that Heater gave him $500 and told him to keep his mouth shut in the days following Oberg’s death.

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