MOUNDSVILLE — The owners of the residence where a John Marshall High School student died last month have been indicted by a Marshall County grand jury after the official cause of death was ruled to be alcohol poisoning.
Following a direct presentment by Marshall County Prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer, the grand jury returned true bills of indictment on Archie and Sabrina Stevey of Moundsville on Monday. Both have been indicted on one count each of child neglect resulting in death, while Archie Stevey also has been indicted on one count of obstructing an officer.
Cramer said the charges stem from information gathered by Marshall County sheriff’s deputies in the weeks following the Feb. 10 death of Chaz Lightner, 17. Lightner died early that morning after drinking a large amount of whiskey through a “beer bong” funnel, according to Cramer.
“The sheriff’s department conducted a very thorough investigation,” Cramer said. “We presented that evidence to the grand jury, and the grand jury returned these indictments.”
Cramer said a West Virginia State Medical Examiner’s office autopsy on Lightner revealed his blood-alcohol concentration was 0.374 percent, which has been established by toxicologists as a possibly fatal level because bladder function, breathing and heart rate are dangerously impaired. Cramer said the report also indicated Lightner had no other medical problems that would have contributed to his death, and there were no other drugs in his system.
Cramer said during the investigation, deputies collected enough evidence against the Steveys to possibly prove they knew underage people were drinking alcohol in their home but did not stop it.
According to the indictments, the couple returned to their home while several underage children were drinking in their home on Chase Lane. The indictments state the couple then went to bed, while knowing the children in the home, including Lightner, were drinking. Neither of the Steveys intervened, the indictments state. Further, one indictment states Archie Stevey, upon discovering Lightner’s body early the next morning, ordered the children involved to clean up all evidence of alcohol in the home, which they did before he called the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department.
If both plead innocent to the charges, Cramer said, the state would not need to prove criminal intent, but rather, neglect.
“This (neglect resulting in death) is a little bit of a different charge,” Cramer said. “It’s not about having to prove what they did, but rather what they did not do.”
He added that there is no evidence suggesting the Steveys knew the party was going on prior to arriving home that night, but he said that when they allowed the children to remain in the home, they became “custodians” and were in charge of their well-being.
Archie and Sabrina Stevey are expected to make their first appearance in court on these charges at 1:15 p.m. March 26 in Marshall County Circuit Court. If convicted of the child neglect charges, both could be sentenced to one to 15 years in prison and/or be fined between $1,000 and $5,000.
In addition, should Archie Stevey be convicted of obstructing, he could be sentenced to one year in prison and/or be fined between $50 and $500.