BUCKHANNON - A Buckhannon man facing a murder charge refused to accept a plea agreement in Upshur County Circuit Court Thursday.
Jesse Lee Heater, 30, is facing charges of first-degree murder, the concealment of a deceased human body and two counts of conspiracy, all felonies, in the death of 29-year-old Joshua Oberg.
Oberg was found in a shallow grave in a remote area of Upshur County along Bull Run Road in July 2012.
On Thursday, Prosecuting Attorney Jake Reger said Heater was "not inclined to accept a plea offer." Reger said the agreement, which was not yet in writing, entailed Heater pleading guilty to first-degree murder with a recommendation of mercy, potentially enabling Heater to be eligible for parole after serving time in prison.
If Heater had accepted the plea agreement, an additional charge from an incident at Tygart Valley Regional Jail after he was incarcerated would have been dismissed, officials said.
According to a complaint on file at the Randolph County Magistrate Court, Heater was charged with one felony count of sexual abuse in the first degree. The complaint states on Jan. 31, 2013, Heater allegedly sexually abused another inmate. Heater has a hearing on that matter on May 22 in Randolph County.
Because Heater did not accept a plea agreement, his murder trial remains set for June 16. Heater allegedly was offered $5,000 by Rodolfo Villagomez Correa, a.k.a "Chino," 33, of Buckhannon, to murder Oberg.
Oberg was reportedly shot and stabbed after Correa allegedly learned that Oberg had been romantically involved with his wife, officials said.
During Heater's pre-trial hearing Thursday, Circuit Judge Kurt Hall stated Heater had written letters without consulting his attorney which Hall advised he had placed on file. The judge told Heater he needed to consult his attorney.
The Inter-Mountain was able to obtain copies of the letters, one addressed to Hall and two others addressed to his attorney, Tom Dyer of Clarksburg. In the letter to Hall, dated April 29, Heater asks to change attorneys.
"First, I wish to seek A New Attorney," Heater's handwritten letter states. "I feel like Mr. Dyer isn't concerned ABout the outcome of my case. I have yet to speak to him ABout my case since Dec (sic)."
In the letter, Heater also claims that he did not kill Oberg.
"Did I shoot Mr. ObeRG?" the letter states. "No! I did Not."
In a letter to Dyer dated Oct. 31, 2013, Heater writes that he agreed to answering "Did you shoot Josh Oberg?" and "Have you ever shot anybody?" during a polygraph test.
"THese two questions should be eNough to pRove Mr. SiRoN is Not oNly A lyer (sic), But he is Also tRying to hAve me coNvicted of A cRime I did Not commit. IT'S A fAct thAt I did Not shoot MR ObeRG. THAT Fact, AloNe, pRoved, sHould Be eNough."
Heater and Robert Eugene Siron III, 31, of Weston both were allegedly involved in the murder. Heater allegedly paid Siron $500 to keep his mouth shut in the days that followed Oberg's death.
Siron pleaded guilty as part of a December plea agreement to one felony count of voluntary manslaughter and one felony count of conspiracy to conceal a deceased human body. As part of that plea agreement, Siron agreed to cooperate in the investigation by providing statements about the involvement of Correa and Heater in Oberg's death.
Siron also agreed, as part of the plea agreement, to submit to a polygraph exam if requested to do so by the prosecuting attorney's office, regarding the disappearance of Luke Stout, according to the plea agreement's terms. Stout was reported missing on July 18, 2012, and police have been told of an alleged possible connection between Stout's disappearance and Oberg's murder.
In a separate letter to Dyer dated Jan. 1, Heater listed additional questions he was in agreement with during "one or more polyograph test (sic)."
According to the letter, those questions include: "Did I sHoot Josh OBerg? NO," "Have I eveR sHot AnyBody? NO," "Did I sHoot luke Stout? NO," "Do I kNow wHAt happeNed to luke stout? NO," and "Do I kNow if luke stout is Dead oR Alive? No."
"Sir, I Feel thAt A PolyogAPH (sic) test Needs to Be coNducted pertAiNing to the Above listed questioNs," the letter states. "I sweaR thAt the ABove QuestioNs AND uNDeRlined RespoNces (sic) Are the tRuth, AND the Results of A PolyogRAPH (sic) Test will suppoRt thAt fAct."