Court denies appeal
ELKINS — An appeal by a convicted murderer who took the life of a young man near the Elkins Depot Welcome Center has been denied by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Derrick William Adamson, 39, of Elkins, was sentenced Dec. 16, 2016, to life without mercy in the state penitentiary, meaning he will never be eligible for parole. Adamson was convicted in October 2016 of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Donovan Nicholson, who was killed in the early morning hours of April 21, 2015, near the Elkins Depot.
Additionally, Adamson was sentenced to one to 10 years in the state penitentiary on one felony count of grand larceny and one to five years in the state penitentiary on one felony count of possession of a stolen vehicle. These two counts were ordered to run concurrently with one another, but consecutively to the life sentence.
After a three-day trial, a 12-person jury found Adamson guilty of the three counts on Oct. 28, 2016. The jury also recommended, at that time, that the sentence be served without mercy.
Adamson was found not guilty of one misdemeanor count of receiving or transferring stolen goods.
According to the appeal, filed on behalf of Adamson by his legal counsel Brent Easton, Adamson cites six assignments of error he believes caused the jury to be prejudicial, including Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker’s use of the word “execution” to describe the murder. He also claimed the prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation, which is required for a first-degree murder conviction.
“On appeal, petitioner raises the following six assignments of error: (1) the circuit court denied petitioner a fair and impartial jury panel because the court refused to question, or permit counsel to question, prospective jurors regarding their understanding of a mercy recommendation; (2) the State (sic) presented insufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation; (3) the circuit court subjected petitioner to multiple punishments in violation of double jeopardy and due process principles by allowing the State (sic) to pursue both grand larceny and possession of a stolen vehicle charges; (4) the admission of petitioner’s statement to law enforcement violated the prompt presentment rule; (5) the circuit court should have granted a mistrial based on prosecutor’s description of the killing as an ‘execution;’ and (6) the admission of the incident between Mr. (Timothy) Summerfield and petitioner violated Rule 404(b) of the West Virginia Rules of Evidence (evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts),” the Supreme Court opinion states.
After review of the facts and circumstances of the case and reviewing previous case law, the Supreme Court of Appeals found that no errors had occurred and gave the opinion that the sentencing order entered by the Circuit Court of Randolph County was proper.
The opinion was concurred by Justices Menis E. Ketchum, Allen H. Loughry II and Elizabeth D. Walker; Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman and Justice Robin Jean Davis dissented.
Police said Adamson was connected to a number of incidents in downtown Elkins that began the evening of April 20, 2015, and continued into the next morning.
After a report of gunshots being fired, law enforcement officials responded to a possible wanton endangerment call before midnight April 20, 2015, at the Mountaineer Mart on Davis Avenue. There, they found Adamson, who fit witness descriptions.
According to the criminal complaint, Patrolman G.L. Brown and Patrolman M.J. Sigley of the Elkins Police Department spoke with Adamson “near the railroad depot,” but did not find a firearm on his person. They did discover Adamson to be in possession of “.25 ACP-caliber handgun rounds.” Adamson was allowed to leave.
Later Brown reviewed store surveillance footage that showed Adamson talking to another man, Timothy Summerfield, according to a criminal complaint filed in Randolph County Magistrate Court. While the two were talking, the tape shows Adamson pull out a “silver in color object” from his jacket and point it in Summerfield’s face. Summerfield then “dodges out of the way in an attempt to avoid something.”
Summerfield told police Adamson came up to him and began talking to him when he “pulled a gun, a shot went off and his ear started to ring, then Adamson stated ‘it’s jammed,’ and kept repeating it.” According to the complaint, Summerfield said Adamson “shook his hand stating ‘today wasn’t your day,’ and then walked away.”
Upon reviewing store surveillance footage, Summerfield’s recount of the events appeared to be correct, the complaint states.
About 90 minutes later, police responded to Go-Mart on Railroad Avenue after receiving a report of a stolen gold Ford 500. Reports indicate Adamson was identified on surveillance footage as the individual who took the vehicle. Minutes later, a BOLO (be on lookout for) alert was issued for the vehicle.
Later, during a foot patrol, Brown discovered Nicholson’s body at 4 a.m., police said. Adamson was apprehended by West Virginia State Police in Webster County.
During a preliminary hearing on April 29, 2015, in Randolph County Magistrate Court, Adamson showed no emotion as his recorded confession was played.
Also during the hearing, testimony was given by two investigating officers along with a victim of one of the incidents that led to Adamson’s arrest.