A special magistrate from Harrison County has been appointed to hear the preliminary cases of those allegedly involved in the disappearance and death of two Lewis County women.
Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Smith asked for the new magistrate because Magistrates Mike Gissy and Rob Clem are both former law enforcement officers who were involved in the investigation of the case that began when Maxine Stalnaker, 69, and her daughter, Mary Geneva Friend, 45, disappeared in 1999.
Gissy, as the sheriff at the time, headed the investigation. Clem is a former Weston police chief and has been indirectly involved in the investigation.
"Rather than have the defense attorneys complaining," Smith said, "I asked for a magistrate to be appointed."
State officials appointed Harrison County Magistrate Tammy Marple to hear the matter. The first of those hearings is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday when Joseph Metz appears for his preliminary hearing.
Metz, 39, is facing two counts each of murder, robbery and kidnapping. He is being held in the Central Regional Jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond. Metz is the son of Friend and the grandson of Stalnaker.
Preliminary hearings for David Martin Hughes, 58, and Charles Steven Freeman, 51, both of Archbold, Ohio, have not been scheduled. Smith said he has been informed that Hughes waived extradition proceedings in Ohio, but has not returned yet to face the West Virginia charges. Hughes is also facing two counts each of murder, kidnapping and robbery.
Smith said he has not been informed of Freeman's status regarding extradition. Freeman is facing the same charges as Hughes and Metz.
"They will get here eventually," Smith said. "As soon as they do, we'll schedule them for a hearing."
According to the police report contained within the criminal complaint filed in Lewis County Magistrate Court, Hughes, while the owner of the Wilderness Plantation, allegedly conspired with Metz and Freeman to have Friend and Stalnaker kidnapped, robbed and killed because Friend possessed a writing tablet believed to contain information about alleged illegal criminal transactions regarding Hughes' business affairs.
Hughes allegedly was concerned that the information could be turned over to law enforcement, the complaint stated.
Metz and Freeman allegedly removed the two women from their residence on Fox Run Road and took them to a location along Jesse Run Road, where they took a purse and allegedly killed the two women, according to the complaint.
Lewis County Sheriff Adam Gissy said he could not comment regarding whether the women's bodies have been recovered. The purse was found in 2002 by a fisherman in Lewis County. The purse, however, did not contain the writing tablet.
The complaint also stated that Hughes admitted in an interview with police officers earlier this month to asking Freeman and Metz to kill the two women and retrieve the tablet.
The complaint stated that Metz and Freeman called Hughes after allegedly killing the two women and disposing of their bodies, then gave Hughes the writing tablet.