Murder Suspect Phelps Is Arraigned for Weapon

Brandon Michael Phelps, 20, 1281 Birch St., Bellaire, pleaded innocent during his Thursday arraignment before Belmont County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jennifer L. Sargus to possession of a deadly weapon while under detention.

The first degree felony allegedly took place Aug. 29.

A status conference was set for March 15, with plea agreement April 12 and trial April 23. His bond of $1 million remains in place. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 11 years.

County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter said a homemade weapon was found on Phelps while incarcerated. Phelps and Devin Wayne Fuller, 19, 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire, are each charged with four counts of aggravated murder committed in the course of rape, aggravated burglary, burglary and trespassing. Both face two additional counts of trespassing.

The crimes are alleged to have taken place June 29-30. The victim, Lydia Ashworth, was found dead in her home.

Phelps is scheduled to appear at another status conference March 4. During a previous status conference, Phelps’ defense attorney asked for the death penalty to be taken off the table.