Ensminger Trial To Begin In New Year

Photo by Alan Olson Judge David Sims sets trial dates Thursday morning in Ohio County Circuit Court.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the first name of the defendant from Brian to Branden.

WHEELING — The man accused of murdering his girlfriend on Wheeling Island in March had his trial date set Thursday during a docket day in Ohio County Circuit Court.

Branden Ensminger, 27, of Wellsburg, who was indicted on charges of murder, robbery, gross child neglect and fraud, will appear for trial Jan. 2, 2019, before Circuit Judge David Sims.

Ensminger is charged with the murder of Rayna Vaughan. Vaughan was found dead in her apartment with a blunt force trauma injury to her head. Police said she had apparently been left dead for several days. Ensminger allegedly had sent threatening messages to her on March 16. He also allegedly was seen that weekend using Vaughan’s welfare card around town along with her ID.

Ensminger was one of several people who had trial dates set after being indicted during the most recent grand jury indictments as well as others who had been carried over from the previous term. Those indicted appeared before Sims and retired Senior Status Judge Arthur Recht.

Recht was recalled to the bench earlier this month to fill the vacancy left by former Circuit Judge James Mazzone, who had left the bench to take up the position of Magistrate in U.S. District Court. During his proceedings, Recht said he aimed to preside over as many cases as possible before Nov. 1, when West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice would appoint a successor to Mazzone’s seat.

“That’s the problem we have — we have three counties,” Recht said, referring to the First Judicial Circuit, composed of Brooke, Hancock and Ohio counties. “We only have so many dates. I want to try all these cases, and there’s two indictments to get through. When the governor appoints somebody, and that person is sworn in, I dissolve. That’s it. Automatically. I’m looking at trying to get all these cases done before Nov. 1. … I’ll see if we can’t accommodate everybody.

“That’s the lay of the land,” he said. “I don’t want to burden whoever’s going to take this seat. That’s my goal.”

Recht set a trial date of Oct. 17 for Eduardo Alvendia. Alvendia was charged with robbing the Up on the Lane Cafe in May.

Also scheduled was Aaron Hazeltine, who will be tried Oct. 15. Hazeltine is charged with robbing the WesBanco branch at The Highlands in March. He was apprehended near Elm Grove after a brief chase.

Among others scheduled for trial were:

∫ Carrie Jeter, 41, of Washington, Pennsylvania, Nov. 19. Entering without breaking and conspiracy.

∫ David Jackson, 38, of Wheeling, Nov. 19. Two counts of felony use of an access device, breaking and entering and grand larceny.

∫ Daniel Fender, 37, of Wheeling, Nov. 19. Assault on an officer and reckless fleeing.

∫ Daniel Burton, 46, of Wheeling, Nov. 7. Entry of a building other than a dwelling and forgery.

∫ Richard Martin, 28, of Wheeling, Oct. 24. Failure to update sex offender registration, second offense.

∫ Candice Custer-Starcher, 47, of Wheeling, Nov. 14. Child neglect resulting in injury.

∫ Jason Cook, 37, of Wheeling, Dec. 5. Entering without breaking and fraudulent use of an access device.