Trials Delayed in Belmont County Child Porn Case

The trials of two former fugitives from justice and another co-defendant accused of crimes related to child pornography are being postponed to allow attorneys more time to share evidence.

Wesley Alan Burdge, 44, of 108 Markatan St., Flushing had been set to go to trial this month, but on Monday Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato rescheduled the trial to May 14 in response to requests from attorneys. Burdge’s lawyer, Brent Clyburn, has said he needs more time to evaluate evidence.

Burdge’s girlfriend and co-defendant Tabitha Lea Gallagher, 38, of the same address also appeared with her attorney, Bruce Clark, asking that her March 19 trial date be continued. The prosecution and defense have jointly asked that her trial be set after Burdge’s.

“It’s my understanding that a motion for continuance will be filed in order to establish that,” Fregiato said. “In the meantime, the Gallagher case is set for set for trial for next week, and until I get that motion it of course will stay.”

Burdge is charged with two counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, a second-degree felony, and two counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance, a fifth-degree felony, all allegedly occurring Oct. 11. Gallagher is accused of obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony that allegedly occurred Oct. 11.

Clyburn initially asked for more time in February.

Burdge remains in the Belmont County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bond. Gallagher is being held on a $25,000 bond. Her trial date remains March 19.

Burdge and Gallagher and their two children were the subjects of a manhunt that lasted nearly a month before they were arrested in November. In October, detectives served a search warrant at the Markatan Street residence in Flushing in the course of an investigation of the couple’s roommate, John Null Garwon III. The Internet Crimes Against Children Division of the Belmont County Major Crimes Unit had received evidence from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating Garwon had been sharing child pornography on the internet.

Garwon was arrested, but Burdge and Gallagher reportedly fled with the children, ages 1 and 5. They eventually were arrested in Washington, Pennsylvania, with the children.

The Belmont County Sheriff’s Department has indicated there may be many additional charges to come, once the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification completes an examination of computer and phone data. In prior interviews, investigators said more than a terabyte of data must be examined.

Meanwhile, Garwon, 43, faces charges of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor and rape. This past Friday, his trial was rescheduled for April 23. He is incarcerated on $250,000 bond.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

COMMENTS