Testimony begins in Lilly murder trial

Defense attorneys Beth Lebow, left, and Joe Munoz, center, confer while Chester Lilly III looks on. Lilly is on trial for the June 18, 2019, murder of his neighbor, Travis Peters. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — When he turned himself into police following the death of his neighbor, Chester Lilly III asked police what were the possible sentences for different degrees of murder.

However, video surveillance from that day only shows Lilly returning with a knife, but does not show him taking the knife when he supposedly went to confront his neighbor Travis Peters when he was killed.

Testimony began Tuesday in Wood County Circuit Court before Judge Robert Waters in the trial of Lilly, 33, who is accused of the killing of 40-year-old Peters on June 18, 2019.

Parkersburg Police Detective Kyle Barnett, who was the lead investigator, stated that when Lilly turned himself in to police on June 19, 2019, he asked what the possible penalties were for first-degree and second-degree murder. Barnett said he told Lilly that life imprisonment was possible for first degree, but he did not know what the penalty was for second-degree murder.

A number of witnesses testified about hearing arguing outside around the home of Peters in the neighborhood along Avery Street where Lilly and Peters lived across the street from each other. Others talked about seeing Peters laying in his yard with blood all over him. Police talked about how and where evidence was gathered and the medical examiner talked about the autopsy performed on Peters.

Parkersburg Police Detective Kyle Barnett, left, is handed documents by Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure during testimony Tuesday in the trial of Chester Lilly III who was charged with the murder of his neighbor, Travis Peters. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

The defense has stated Lilly was attacked, got the knife away from Peters and was forced to defend himself. The prosecution has stated Lilly intended to kill Peters when he went to confront him that day.

Dr. Jacqueline Benjamin, who performed the autopsy on Peters, testified he had a number of stab wounds on him with one that was almost 9 inches deep and another that was over 4 inches deep. She also noted abrasions on his fingers and arms that could be described as being “defensive wounds.”

She also testified that toxicology tests done from samples she collected showed methamphetamine and marijuana in Peters’ system as well as indications of traumatic brain injury from years before.

Barnett testified Peters did not appear to have any weapons around him when he was found in his yard. There were no garden tools nearby as he was apparently out pulling weeds that day. Police did find firearms in his house as well as drugs, but no knives.

Police got video surveillance from Lilly’s house and others nearby.

Prosecutors played the video for the jury which showed Lilly leaving his porch, supposedly to confront Peters, and coming back quickly with a knife and sheaf visible in his right hand as well as blood on his arms before he and his fiancée quickly left the house and drove off.

Barnett testified police conducted a search for Lilly, speaking with family and visiting places he might have gone.

Lilly turned himself in the next day, but had changed his clothes. However, police were able to obtain blood from his shoes. The clothes he wore on June 18 and the knife used to kill Peters have not been found.

Defense attorney Joe Munoz went through the surveillance video and showed Barnett a number of frames of Lilly on the porch before going to confront Peters, asking Barnett to pay attention to Lilly’s hands in the frames where they were visible as well as reflections from a window in some of the frames.

“It does not appear he has anything in his hands,” Barnett said.

Prosecutors indicated they expect to wrap up their case today and the defense stated it planned to call no more than three witnesses with the possibility that Lilly might be one of those.

Testimony resumes at 9:30 a.m. today before Waters.


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