Lewis County double murder hearing delayed

Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Smith said he was surprised to have been subpoenaed to be a defense witness in the case of a Horner man charged with kidnapping and killing his mother and grandmother in an effort to conceal another man’s supposedly illegal business affairs.

“I’m willing to be a witness, but they probably wouldn’t like my testimony,” Smith said. “When I got subpoenaed, I called it ‘The Subpoena from Mars.’ I have never heard of a prosecutor being subpoenaed. I’ve never heard of that in my 45 years of law. I’ve heard of it now.”

Defense attorneys Steve Nanners and Dennis Willett had issued seven subpoenas seeking Smith and six law enforcement officers to show up for Monday’s preliminary hearing for Joseph Edward Metz, 39, in Lewis County Magistrate Court and bring all of the documents associated with this case over the past 14 years. Because of the nature of the request, the hearing has been postponed until 9 a.m. Friday.

Metz, who is being held in the Central Regional Jail, is facing two counts each of murder, robbery and kidnapping. He is alleged to have killed his mother, 45-year-old Mary Friend, and his 69-year-old grandmother, Maxine Stalnaker, in 1999 after allegedly being asked to do so by David Martin Hughes, who believed the women to be in possession of a tablet that contained information about criminal transactions regarding Hughes’ business affairs. Metz is alleged to have acted with Charles Steven Freeman in carrying out the deed.

Freeman and Hughes are in Ohio awaiting extradition. Both are facing the same charges as Metz.

Harrison County Magistrate Tammy Marple, who was specially appointed to hear the cases because of both local magistrates’ involvement in the investigation of the 14-year-old missing persons case, ruled that the defense team’s request would be handled during the discovery phase, which would start if Metz is indicted by a grand jury. Smith argued that the case file is so voluminous that if it were introduced, “we would be in this preliminary hearing from now to Christmas, maybe the summer.”

But Willett argued that the documents are necessary, claiming that he believes no such evidence to link Metz to the allegations exist except for a statement from Hughes.

“I’ve been informed the prosecutor is sitting on a thick file,” Willett said. “Mr. Smith says this is a 14-year investigation. My client is facing life. There is not one shred of evidence against Mr. Metz that would lead us to conclude that Joseph Edward Metz is guilty of murder, robbery and kidnapping. The only evidence against Mr. Metz is the word of Mr. Hughes.”

Nanners argued that Metz has the right to question the evidence presented against him, but cannot do so without knowing what that evidence is.

“He’s going to be bound over to the grand jury without evidence,” Nanners said. “You just cannot say, ‘probable cause and you can sit in jail until we get some evidence.”’

Marple ruled that those subpoenaed – with the exception of the prosecuting attorney – can testify during Friday’s hearing, but that they will not be required to bring any and all documents associated with Hughes or anyone else charged in the case. Willett said he would seek to overturn that ruling in Lewis County Circuit Court, but said he did not think such a move would be done in time for Friday’s hearing.