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Jurors find defendants guilty of murder

McCoy, Roberts convicted on all counts

In the back row, from left, Jessica Roberts, 27, and Kenneth McCoy, 34, await the jury’s verdict in Wood County Circuit Court Tuesday with their defense attorneys Courtney Ahlborn and John Oshoway. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

PARKERSBURG — After six days of trial, five days of testimony and almost two hours of deliberation, the Wood County Circuit Court jury in the 2017 murder trial reached a verdict on Tuesday.

Jessica Roberts, 27, and Kenneth McCoy, 34, were found guilty on the charges of murder in the first degree, felony murder, conspiracy to commit a criminal offense, robbery in the first degree, burglary and grand larceny.

Tuesday’s proceedings began with Courtney Ahlborn, Roberts’ defense attorney, calling Eric Walls, a licensed psychologist, to testify on the mental health of Roberts.

Walls discussed his findings which he had obtained through nine tests, evaluating Roberts himself and reading through case evidence and medical history.

Walls said he felt she had been acting under duress, bringing her to act against her will or better judgment.

“Roberts described many instances where she said she felt trapped and afraid of McCoy,” Walls said.

Walls said that Roberts, like many people in abusive relationships, rationalized the abuse, making her reduce her desire to escape.

Walls said there are many factors such as education, support and resources that influence the decision to escape abusive relationships, all of which Roberts lacked.

After cross examination from Prosecuting Attorney Pat Lefebure, it was determined that Walls had not looked at the second statement given to police by Roberts. Walls agreed that it could potentially have been beneficial evidence for his opinion.

Lefebure wished to strike the testimony due to the lack of evidence reviewed, but it was overruled.

After the questioning of Walls was completed, the defense rested its case.

Lefebure was first to speak during closing arguments.

“I don’t believe that they (McCoy and Roberts) are victims, but there are multiple victims in this case,” Lefebure said, then gestured to the family of Penni Curtiss as those other victims.

“These two (McCoy and Roberts) are murderers and that is all,” he said.

Lefebure replayed clips from the statements given to police during his final arguments so the jury could “hear it for themselves.”

“They waited for 12 hours for her (Curtiss) to get home. If they wanted food, clothes, money or valuables they could have taken it then. But they didn’t want that; no they wanted to exact revenge and take her car,” said Lefebure.

“You have to look at actions, not just what they say,” Lefebure said.

Ahlborn was next to present closing arguments.

“What did the state really prove?” Ahlborn asked.

She argued that grand larceny was to deprive a person of their property, and that through testimony and evidence, it is clear that Curtiss was not the owner of the vehicle, but her parents were.

Ahlborn argued that her client did not make any fatal wounds because it had been the male’s shirt and pants, found in the Dumpster along with other evidence pertaining to the homicide, that were splattered with a brownish dried substance. The blue-greenish female clothes were clean aside from a few small stains, Ahlborn said.

She argued that her client was told to get in the home, but that video evidence shows McCoy, not Roberts, breaking in and disposing of the evidence into the Dumpster.

Ahlborn said there was a lack of DNA evidence placing Roberts at the crime scene.

“What is their evidence?” Ahlborn asked the jury.

John Oshoway, McCoy’s defense attorney, argued that the crime was not murder in the first degree due to lack of premeditation.

“These are very dysfunctional people,” Oshoway said.

Oshoway explained the difference between murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter to the jury.

“Just look at what they did after the murder, knowing she works everyday. They stay at the home for multiple hours, then these brilliant planners stuck around town after killing her and left a trail,” Oshoway quipped.

Oshoway pointed out the way Roberts story would change and called Parkersburg Police Department Detective James Stalnaker’s tactics suggestive.

“He kept going back to Roberts, the weak link, to get her to confess the evidence the state needs for their case,” Oshoway said.

Lefebure was given a chance to rebut the defense arguments before the jury was dismissed to decide on a verdict.

He argued Oshoway’s definition of premeditation, saying, “They made a plan to wait 12 hours for Curtiss to return home. They had 12 hours to take anything, but they chose to wait for her, crush her skull, slit her throat and then steal her van.”

Lefebure refuted the comments made against Stalnaker’s tactics being suggestive, playing clips where on multiple occasions Roberts had without being suggestively questioned provided statements of her’s and McCoy’s guilt to police.

The jury left to decide a verdict at 3:10 p.m. and returned with its decision at 5:06 p.m.

The trial will resume today at 9 a.m. for the mercy phase to determine if the defendants will be sentenced to life with or without mercy.

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