Murderer Awaits Ruling on Request for New Trial in Wheeling

Photo by Kylie Weisenborn Convicted murderer Yassar Abdelhaq, right, appears in Ohio County Circuit Court Tuesday to ask for a new trial. With him is attorney Dana McDermott of Martinsburg.

WHEELING – A Cleveland man convicted twice of stabbing his girlfriend more than 200 times in a Wheeling hotel room in 1999 will have to wait to learn whether he’ll receive a third trial.

Yassar Abdelhaq, who has been in prison for more than 16 years for the first-degree murder of Dana Tozer, appeared Tuesday before Circuit Judge James Mazzone. He is seeking a new trial based on allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel during his second trial in 2004.

Mazzone will take into consideration evidence presented during Tuesday’s hearing and issue a ruling at a later date.

Tuesday’s proceedings included testimony from Wheeling attorney Robert McCoid, who represented Abdelhaq during his 2004 trial.

In 1999, Abdelhaq stabbed Tozer, 25, who was a paraplegic, more than 230 times in a first-floor room in the Wheeling Hampton Inn. He reportedly was under the influence of cocaine at the time.

Abdelhaq and Tozer had been vacationing in Wheeling, and police were called to the hotel after the couple was late for check-out. After an hour of trying to convince Abdelhaq to open the door, officers broke down the door to find Tozer dead in the bathtub.

Drugs and drug paraphernalia were collected from the scene.

A jury convicted Abdelhaq in 2000, but he successfully appealed the conviction before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which ruled in 2003 that Abdelhaq should receive a new trial because an investigating officer served on the grand jury which originally indicted him.

However, a jury found Abdelhaq guilty of first-degree murder again in 2004.

During the second trial, Abdelhaq asked the jury not to find him innocent, but to convict him of the lesser offense of second-degree murder so he would serve a lesser sentence and have a chance of parole.

According to several expert witnesses who testified at both trials, Abdelhaq was in a state of psychosis from drug use at the time of the murder and could not have premeditated the killing – which was the basis for the first-degree murder charge.

Abdelhaq is currently serving his life sentence at Mount Olive Correctional Complex.