Trial for Bellaire Murder Suspect Set for Jan. 2

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A Jan. 2 trial date was set for accused murderer Brandon Michael Phelps when he appeared before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer L. Sargus on Monday.

Phelps, 20, of 1281 Birch St., Bellaire and Devin Wayne Fuller, 19, of 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire each are charged with aggravated murder committed in the course of rape, aggravated burglary, burglary and trespassing. Each murder count carries a death penalty specification.

The crimes are alleged to have taken place June 29-30. The victim, 92-year-old Lydia Ashworth, was found dead in her home.

In addition to Phelps’ trial date, two more pretrial hearings were set for May 13 and Aug. 19.

Sargus granted a request from the defense for an additional $3,000 for a neuropsychologist evaluation and $7,000 for a forensic psychological evaluation for a total of $10,000.

During a previous status conference, Phelps’ defense challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty and asked that it be taken off the table.

Fuller, meanwhile, appeared before Common Pleas Judge John M. Solovan II on Friday for a pretrial. Attorney Kirk McVay signed on as co-counsel for his defense with William Mooney acting as lead counsel.

A forensic psychologist will meet with Fuller, who will appear in court for another pretrial hearing on May 10.