Man Who Fled Trial in Marshall County Sentenced to 7-25 Years

A McMechen man who fled the Marshall County Courthouse during jury deliberations in his November trial on drug charges learned Wednesday he could spend as many as 25 years behind bars.

The jury in his absence convicted Larry Welling, 37, of operating a clandestine drug laboratory, conspiracy and possession of precursors to produce methamphetamine. Welling had stepped outside to smoke before getting into a vehicle and leaving, stranding his mother at the courthouse and prompting a three-day manhunt that ended with his arrest behind his home in McMechen.

On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Jeff Cramer sentenced Welling to seven to 25 years in prison, the maximum sentence possible allowed by the state.

During the hearing, Prosecutor Rhonda Wade read a statement from Assistant Prosecutor Joe Canestraro urging Cramer to hand down the maximum sentence, Canestraro cited Welling’s lack of an employment record and his 13 drug-related convictions since 1999.

“Mr. Welling doesn’t take responsibility for the crimes for which he’s most recently been tried,” Canestraro wrote. “It always appears to be someone else’s fault. Even (in) a manslaughter conviction, he said, ‘All I did was call someone to bring in heroin, and it was bad heroin.’ He shows the same lack of responsibility for any of his crimes, In addition, during his whole life, he’s had basically zero work history, and has contributed nothing to society.”

Welling declined to address the court during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing. His attorney, Brent Clyburn, said Welling had made efforts to improve himself since the birth of his daughter 10 years ago.

“He pointed out to me that after the birth of his eldest daughter, he quit making bad decisions,” Clyburn said. “There’s a 10-year gap where he decided to say, ‘I’m going to stop making bad decisions, I’m a dad now.'”

Wade said she was pleased with Cramer’s decision.

“I’m very happy. Unfortunately, it’s what Mr. Welling deserves, if you look at his history,” she said.

Wade added that despite his arrest on a fleeing charge after he walked out on his trial, the state won’t pursue that charge. She said, however, the ordeal was a stressful one for the court.

“We had to sit and look for him for three days, call up law enforcement from five different agencies. We had dogs out there,” she said. “If you ask me, that’s giving us the runaround.”