BUCKHANNON - The attorney of a Buckhannon man facing murder charges asked the judge to order the media to suppress a component of Friday's motion hearing.
Prosecuting Attorney Jake Reger presented three motions Friday related to the case of Jessie Lee Heater, 30, of Buckhannon. Heater is facing felony charges of first degree murder, concealment of a deceased human body and two counts of conspiracy, in relation to an alleged murder-for-hire concerning the death of 29-year-old Joshua Oberg, whose body was discovered in July 2012.
One of Reger's motions prompted Heater's defense attorney, Tom Dyer, to not only object, but also to make a request that media representatives be ordered not to include the details of that motion in their press reports at the "risk of confronting the first amendment."
Reger requested that, because of the nature of Heater's charges, he be required to wear a "shock belt" as an extra security measure during his trial.
"I think it would be improper and unfair for the defendant to have to wear that belt," Dyer said in objecting to the motion.
Dyer said Heater has been cooperative in his participation in court proceedings and he has behaved in a "subdued manner."
"(Reporting on the 'shock belt' motion) would lead the normal person into the interest that this kid has raised some hell," Dyer later added.
When Dyer asked that the media be ordered to exclude information regarding the belt, Circuit Judge Kurt Hall said it was in his power to make such an order, but he would not do so in this case.
"I could order them not to, but I'm not going to," Hall said. "I'm not going to tell the newspapers what to print."
Hall also said Friday's hearing was an open court proceeding, or he might view the request differently. He said photos of Heater in prison orange were being taken by the media in his courtroom that very day, and that photos of Heater in prison attire have already been published.
Hall said he believed the belt could be concealed under the defendant's clothing, and noted he would take the motion to have Heater wear the belt under advisement.
"The court will probably grant that request (to have Heater wear the shock belt)," Hall said.
Heater's trial is scheduled to begin July 16.
Reger also made a motion regarding a jury member. Reger said the juror in question may have a family member who has been convicted of murder.
"It greatly concerns the state," Reger said.
Hall said the juror was one of 12 selected to serve and there are two alternate jurors. Granting the motion might require the case to move forward with only one alternate juror, he noted. Hall said he would take the motion under advisement.
"If what is alleged is true, I think the court would have no choice but to dismiss this juror... if in fact the juror's family member was convicted of murder," Hall said. "We may have to try the case with only one alternative juror."
The defense did not object to the motion.
Reger also made a motion regarding clarification of the felony charge of conspiracy to commit murder in Heater's indictment. Reger asked that the indictment be amended to name the alleged co-conspirators, Robert Eugene Siron III, 31, of Weston, and Rodolpho "Chino" Villagomez Correa, 33, of Buckhannon.
Hall said he would take the motion under advisement.
West Virginia State Police investigators who have testified in the case have said they believe Correa hired Heater for $5,000 to murder Oberg after learning of Oberg's alleged romantic involvement with Correa's wife. They also have alleged Heater gave Siron $500 to keep his mouth shut following Oberg's death.
In December 2013, Siron pleaded guilty to one felony count of Voluntary manslaughter and one felony count of conspiracy to conceal a deceased human body in the death of Oberg. As part of the plea agreement, Siron agreed to cooperate by providing statements regarding the alleged involvement of Heater and Correa in the case.
Correa's trial is set for July.