Man sentenced for robbing area pharmacy

PARSONS – A man accused of robbing a pharmacist at a drug store was sentenced to five to 18 years in prison Monday in Tucker County Circuit Court.

John Joseph Morton Jr., 29, was arrested in July for allegedly robbing the Rite Aid pharmacy in Parsons and taking approximately 300 Percocet pills.

Morton pleaded guilty to second degree robbery, a felony, and assault, a misdemeanor, in December. He appeared Monday before Tucker County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Nelson.

Morton’s attorney, Tim Prentice, said the case was a sad one.

“There is no doubt that the people at Rite Aid were frightened by the occurrence on July 16 last year,” Prentice said. “That is unfortunate. John Morton has been easy to work with and I personally believe that the only reason this occurred was because John Morton was drug addicted and not himself.”

Prentice said the weapon Morton used in the incident was a cap gun. Prentice said he felt the intent of the crime was just to get drugs.

“Mr. Morton is 29 years old,” Prentice said. “I think he is worth trying to salvage. I think he can be salvaged. He is a decent person, except for his drug habit.”

Prentice asked the court to “temper justice with mercy.”

Tucker County Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora III agreed that Morton was young, but said the charge was very


“You can see (from the witness statements) this had lasting affects on the pharmacist,” LaMora said. “Even though a fake weapon was used, when it is pressed to your back, you don’t know if it is real or fake.”

Morton said he was willing to accept responsibility for his actions.

“I am a drug addict, and I want to stress that no one was in real danger that day,” Morton said. “If I could do anything to change it, I would. My family is suffering, my kids are suffering.”

Also in Tucker County Circuit Court Monday:

– Philip Phillips, 54, of 265 7th St., Davis, appeared with his lawyer, Pat Nichols. Nelson set Phillips’ bond at $10,000 personal recognizance, and ordered him to have no contact with the alleged victim. His pretrial hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. July 21.

Phillips, who was indicted by a Tucker County grand jury last week, was charged with three counts of second degree sexual assault, one count of first degree sexual abuse, six counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian and two counts of third degree sexual abuse.

Phillips was indicted originally in February, but the charges were dismissed in March as a result of incorrect dates listed in the original indictment. Those charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be brought up again.

– George Keihl, 28, appeared before Nelson with attorney Pat Nichols, who was sitting in for Frank Bush. Nelson set Keihl’s bond at $10,000 personal recognizance. He set Keihl’s pretrial hearing for 9:30 a.m. July 10.

Keihl, who is currently lodged in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail, was indicted last week on one count of filing a false claim for medical assistance and one count of making a false statement for medical care, both felonies, and one count of reporting a false emergency, a misdemeanor. Keihl was arrested in early February.

– James Ray Waybright, 47, of 458 Smokey Hollow Road, Parsons, appeared with his attorney, Chris Cooper, Monday. Nelson set Waybright’s pretrial hearing for 9:30 a.m. July 10.

Waybright was indicted on one count of sexual assault in the second degree, a felony. He allegedly had intercourse with the alleged victim on July 4, after she told him she did not want to have sex with him.

– Charles Miller, 60, of Thomas, appeared with his attorney, Cooper. Nelson set bond for Miller at $25,000 personal recognizance and ordered that he have no contact with the alleged victim. His pretrial hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. July 10.

Miller was indicted on three counts of sexual assault in the third degree, three counts of sexual abuse of an incapacitated adult and three counts of sexual abuse by a parent, custodian or guardian during the Tucker County Grand Jury indictments Tuesday.

– David Lee Close, 35, appeared in court with Prentice. Close pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful assault.

Nelson sentenced Close to not less than one or more than five years in the penitentiary. Nelson suspended the execution of the sentence and placed Close on probation for two years, including time served.

Close, of 106 Thornwood Lane, Parsons, was originally indicted in February on one count of malicious wounding.

– Jessica Poe, 24, of Hambleton, who was arrested for violating the terms of her probation, appeared in court Monday with her attorney, Megan


According to Poe, she “had not been taking the terms of her probation seriously, and was missing classes and being late for work.”

Nelson ordered that Poe be released and take part in Tucker County Community Corrections. Poe was indicted in October by a Tucker County grand jury on two felony counts of child neglect creating a risk of injury, after being pulled over for reckless driving in August.

– April Miller, 29, of 914 S. Davis Ave., Elkins, appeared in court Monday with Prentice as her attorney. Nelson set Miller’s hearing for 9:30 a.m. Aug 12.

Miller was indicted on one count of child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury, two counts of child neglect resulting in death, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of permitting DUI in Feb.

Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.