Murder-for-Hire Trial Set for January
The man accused of firing the fatal shot in an alleged murder-for-hire plot in the death of former Powhatan Point Mayor Marvin Brown will go to trial Jan. 15.
Steven Moore, 38, of 5495 Cove Road, Powhatan Point, is charged with aggravated murder and aggravated burglary with a firearm specification in the Nov. 18, 2013, murder of Brown, who was also a local business owner. Moore’s defense attorney, Chase Mallory, said he expects to challenge the admissibility of Moore’s earlier confession to the crime. Mallory said the expert will provide a report on Moore’s mental state at the time of the confession, and he expects this to occur in about 30 days.
Belmont County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan said his office would review any such report and might retain its own expert.
Last month, Moore had asked that the four-hour March 12 interview during which he confessed to murdering Brown be suppressed. Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra overruled that motion. Moore remains in jail in lieu of $1 million bond. He faces a maximum sentence of life without parole.
“I think false confessions are a big problem. I think we see serious problems with the way this interrogation was conducted,” Mallory said. “We fully believe this is a false confession. … It is hard for people to believe somebody would give a false confession. There are a lot of reasons that people do that, and I think it’s important to have an expert be able to come in and explain why someone would, in fact, give a false confession.”
Flanagan declined to comment on that matter or on the possibility of any future charges against other individuals who are suspected to have been involved.
Mallory and Flanagan argued the legitimacy of the interview and confession during an August hearing, with Mallory bringing up issues such as Moore’s status as a heroin user. Flanagan argued that the interview was conducted properly and that Moore gave no indication of a lack of awareness of the situation.
Moore is also facing four unrelated counts of trafficking in drugs. According to the prosecutor’s office, Moore had been in jail on those charges when the March interview regarding Brown’s death took place, resulting in his confession to Brown’s murder. Vavra said hearings on the drug charges will be held after the January murder trial.
Officials from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office believe Moore and an individual they have not been named were at Brown’s home the night of the murder as part of a conspiracy. They also believe that both of those individuals were paid as part of a plot to kill Brown.
Brown’s step-daughter, Meredith Broome, aka Meredith McLeod, was arrested in March on the suspicion that she arranged and paid for the 2013 murder. After appearing before a grand jury in June, she was charged with tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice. The grand jury did not indict her for murder.
In other matters, Jason Yock, 43, of 51820 Key-Bellaire Road, Bellaire, was sentenced for burglary before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato. He received three years of community controls and will serve six months in jail and six months at the Eastern Ohio Correction Center.
A violation of the terms of his community controls would result in a sentence of three years in prison. The charges against him stem from an incident March 6 in which Yock broke into and ransacked the residence of a person known to him, saying he was looking for his own property.
Also, Devon Tyler Barber, 21, homeless with a last known residence in New Jersey, appeared before Vavra. Barber has been evaluated and ruled competent to stand trial Sept. 27. His bond was set at $6,000. He is accused of failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer and possession of synthetic marijuana, which allegedly occurred July 3.
Barber’s charges stem from an incident in which he was stopped for an alleged speeding violation on Interstate 70 and drove away after initial contact with the officer. A pursuit reportedly ensued, beginning at mile post 219 as Barber allegedly fled eastbound, then took the Interstate 470 exit. Traffic spikes were employed to stop his vehicle.
During Thursday’s hearing, Barber refused counsel from the Belmont County Public Defender’s Office and indicated he would represent himself. He then repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of the proceedings.