Guilty Verdict in Murder
ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A Belmont County jury will decide whether Devin Wayne Fuller will face the death penalty after finding him guilty on three of four charges Thursday.
The jury returned guilty verdicts on one count of aggravated murder committed in the course of aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated burglary and one count of burglary. Fuller was found not guilty on a charge of aggravated murder committed in the course of rape after several hours of deliberation that began Wednesday.
Fuller, 20, 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire, faced the charges in connection with the June 30, 2012 murder of 92-year-old Lydia Ashworth. He and a co-defendant, Brandon Michael Phelps, 1281 Birch St., Bellaire were arrested after several months of investigation.
On the charge of aggravated murder committed in the course of aggravated burglary, the jury found Fuller had committed murder in an effort to avoid arrest. However, the jury did not believe Fuller was the primary assailant or acted with premeditation.
On Monday, the jury will begin the second stage of the trial, in which sentences including the death penalty will be discussed.
The jury will hear from various witnesses on Fuller’s behalf. Belmont County Prosecutor Dan Fry said the state will recommend the death penalty for Fuller. He said he was pleased the jury had returned a verdict that provides some sort of comfort for Ashworth’s family.
“I’m satisfied for the family and Sylvia (Eimer, Ashworth’s daughter) to deal with what she’s dealt with over the past two years, this is justice for her and for her mother,” Fry said. “I’m pleased with the trial and the way it went.”
Bellaire Police Chief Michael Kovalyk – whose department worked on the initial investigation of the case – said the conviction was a way for Ashworth’s family to find closure. Fry also commended Paul Scarsella from the state attorney general’s office and Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan.
Meanwhile, Phelps is set to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the case March 31, with jury selection beginning March 27. Fry said the outcome of the Fuller case will not impact Phelps’ trial.
“We were prepared to try Phelps before Fuller, and as far as the state’s concerned, our theories about that case remain the same after the verdict here,” Fry said. “Our evidence remains the same.”
Fuller will have the option to appeal the case.