MARIETTA - Alleged murderer Mark F. Stevens recently passed a polygraph test in jail, denying any involvement in the 2008 murder of his Newport neighbor, according to his attorney.
While not admissible in court, the successful polygraph might be enough to get Stevens, 48, of 2385 Bells Run Road, out of jail while he awaits trial, said public defender Ray Smith.
"I filed a motion for a personal recognizance bond (Wednesday) on Mark Stevens," said Smith.
Murder suspect Mark F. Stevens, 48, of Newport appeared in court in August. Arrested earlier that month, Stevens is accused of the 2008 murder of his neighbor, Patrick Arnold, but recently denied the allegations during a polygraph test.
Stevens has been incarcerated since his Aug. 1 arrest, which came four years and a week after the shooting of 42-year-old Patrick Arnold at his 2410 Bells Run Road home.
At the time of his arrest, Washington County Sheriff's Office Detective Jeff Seevers said Stevens had been one of the initial suspects in the case, but there was no evidence linking him to the crime.
Details about the shooting that Stevens later gave to a wired confidential informant eventually led to his arrest, officials said, but the sheriff's office hasn't said exactly what information was gleaned from that recorded conversation.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks declined to comment on the case this week, since it is ongoing.
However, Smith has long been convinced of Stevens' innocence, he said.
"I talked to (Mark) three years ago and I didn't think he committed this crime then," said Smith, who spoke with Stevens in 2009 after detectives first questioned him about the murder.
The attorney is not the only one who thinks detectives may have the wrong man. Members of Arnold's family, including cousins Patty Carpenter, Rose Grahame and Jonie Haught, have questioned Stevens' guilt.
All three women expressed support for Stevens during his last court appearance-a January hearing during which Stevens was found competent to stand trial.
During the polygraph exam, performed March 4 by a licensed polygraph examiner, Stevens was asked three questions which pertained to the case, according to a report the examiner made.
Stevens said he did not shoot Arnold, that he was not present at the time of the murder and that he had never been to Arnold's house prior to being taken there by an informant after the fact.
"It is the opinion of this examiner that the subject was truthful, to the best of his knowledge, concerning the information he supplied and in his denials of shooting Patrick Arnold," wrote examiner Dean Capehart, who was accredited by the American Polygraph Association in 1991.
Smith said he refrained from having Stevens asked further questions about his knowledge of the case because they did not want to risk him making conjectures based on what he "thought" was true.
"He's heard rumors so he may think he knows," said Smith.
If granted by acting Judge Julie Selmon of Monroe County, a personal recognizance bond would release Stevens on the promise he would return for trial, which is scheduled for July 15.
Selmon did not return a call for comment Thursday.
It is possible conditions would be attached to a recognizance bond, such as staying in Washington County, avoiding the victim's family and abstaining from drugs and alcohol, said Smith.
Bond is set at $500,000 in Stevens' case.
Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider said he would not comment on whether the results of Stevens' polygraph exam contradict the prosecution's information in the case.
Schneider did say he does not trust the results of polygraph tests.
"The courts don't trust them. They don't acknowledge them," he said.
He thinks the current bond is appropriate because of the severity of the crime, Schneider said.
Stevens is facing an unscheduled felony charge of murder with a firearm specification and a third-degree felony count of tampering with evidence.
"I don't think the bond ought to be lowered in this case," said Schneider, who added he plans to file a response asking that bond be continued.
He cited the risk of Stevens fleeing and potential harm to Stevens or available witnesses as reasons bond should remain the same.
However, Smith argues that Stevens is not a flight risk.
"He has lived at that (Bells Run Road) address all of his life, and the family still owns that property," he wrote in the motion.
Smith said he will likely be filing more motions before the trial.
The next hearing on pending motions in Stevens' case is set for April 17, said Schneider.