Bond reduction denied in double fatality case

PHILIPPI – A request for bond reduction was denied Monday for a Pennsylvania woman arrested in connection with a Barbour County wreck that killed a man and an infant in October.

Janel M. Sturm, 28, from Baden, Pa., was charged with two counts of driving under the influence causing death and one count of child neglect resulting in death. The wreck occurred in Barbour County Oct. 28. Sturm was arrested March 13 and is being held in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail on a $150,000 bond.

Sturm’s attorney, Justina Helmick, asked Barbour County Magistrate Kathi McBee to reduce Sturm’s bond Monday.

“She voluntarily appeared on March 13 to be arraigned on the charges,” Helmick said. “She was residing at the time in Pennsylvania with her father. Her father is here and present today and agreeable to transporting her to any and all appointments that she may have and any and all court hearings that she may have.”

Helmick said Sturm could not post the $150,000 bond.

“She has never made any attempts to flee the jurisdiction of the court,” Helmick said. “As I stated before, she voluntarily appeared and she is also participating in services at a clinic in Rochester, Pa. . . .dealing with this incident that occurred five to six months ago.”

Helmick asked the court to consider that Sturm has extensive ties to the community.

“When she left for Pennsylvania, she contacted the court and told them she was going,” Helmick said. “We ask that you consider reducing bond in this matter.”

Barbour County Prosecuting Attorney Leckta Poling argued against bond reduction based on the fact that the case involves two fatalities.

“At the time the defendant did leave the jurisdiction of the court and she did appear voluntarily, but there is the risk that she would not return,” Poling said. “I believe that based on the severity of the charges that the bond that was previously set is fair.

“At the time of the incident, the state alleges that Sturm had three different drugs in her system,” Poling said. “The state believes that this impacts this matter.”

McBee ruled that the bond would remain at $150,000.

At Helmick’s request, Sturm’s preliminary hearing will be held at a later date.

Following the hearing, McBee said a date for the preliminary hearing would be set once a special prosecutor is appointed.

Sturm was allegedly driving on U.S. Route 250, north of Belington, when she lost control of the vehicle, ran off the roadway and rolled the vehicle on its top. The crash resulted in the death of Travis W. Felton, 29, and seven-week-old Raele Marie Felton, who were both ejected from the vehicle.