Defendant Leaves Marshall County Court During Deliberations in Moundsville
Trial for drug charges was in final stages
MOUNDSVILLE — A McMechen man didn’t stick around the Marshall County Courthouse long enough to hear a jury return guilty verdicts against him on several drug charges.
The two-day trial took an odd twist Tuesday as the defendant, 37-year-old Larry Welling, apparently left the courthouse during jury deliberations, leaving court officials — and his mother — searching for him.
According to Marshall County Assistant Prosecutor Joe Canestraro, at some point during the jury’s two-hour deliberations, Welling — who was free on bond pending the outcome of his trial — stepped outside to smoke.
“After closing arguments, the jury came back twice — once was to rewatch a video interview, the other was to question the defendant — and Welling could not be found anywhere,” Canestraro said. “His lawyer looked for him, court security looked for him and, at one point, his mother said he left in their vehicle that they rode to court with, and left her alone. She had to walk home.”
The jury eventually returned with guilty verdicts against Welling on charges of operating a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory, conspiracy and possession of precursors to methamphetamine.
Circuit Judge Jeff Cramer revoked Welling’s bond and issued a warrant for his arrest. But as of late Wednesday, police were still searching for him.
“He was supposedly going out to smoke a cigarette and just took off,” Canestraro said. “In my 10 years of being a prosecutor, I’ve never seen this before.”
Prosecutor Rhonda Wade does not believe Welling to be dangerous, although she acknowledged he “probably doesn’t want to be caught.”
“We can charge him with failure to appear,” Wade said.
Because the trial was completed before Welling left, Wade said, there was no possibility of a mistrial being declared.
“He’s on the loose, he’s not been found, and there’s a warrant for his arrest. I also filed recidivist information against him. He has a prior felony conviction of voluntary manslaughter. It was drug-related,” Canestraro said.
Canestraro said Welling faces five to 25 years in prison as a result of his conviction, and will be sentenced at a later date. Should the recidivist information be accepted, he will face at least an additional two years.
Because Welling’s former home on Olive Avenue in Moundsville remains closed on the order of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, due to the presence of chemicals from a meth lab in the house, he and his mother had been staying at a residence in McMechen.
Moundsville police Lt. Steve Kosek said he’s confident authorities will have Welling in custody soon.
“It’s a new place they moved into two, three weeks ago, but we know his vehicle,” Kosek said.