After seven hours of deliberation Wednesday, a jury exited the court room without returning a verdict in the case of former Ohio County sheriff's deputy Sean Marenkovic.
Marenkovic, 32, is charged with two counts of sexual assault stemming from alleged incidents that occurred in 2003 between he and a then 14-year-old female.
Deliberation continues today in Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht's court room, located on the fifth-floor of the Wheeling City-County building.
Marenkovic testified Wednesday to offer his account of their interaction. Marenkovic said he and the now 22-year-old woman met online and began chatting, but maintains those conversations never turned sexual in content.
The girl also said she was 16 years old, he added.
He recalled they met in person for the first time when she was near his residence when he returned from a run in their neighborhood. He said she was upset over a family argument and after unsuccessfully attempting to console her, he invited her into his apartment.
While the two were inside, Marenkovic said, she made a sexual advance towards him, placing her hand on his leg.
He claimed she said although she was only 16 years old, she wanted to have sex with him and no one would learn of it.
Marenkovic said he asked the female to leave his apartment at that point, recalling he informed her he was not going to lose his job. He also advised her to seek counseling, he said.
The sexual allegations remained hidden until the woman revealed them to Ohio County Circuit Judge James Mazzone while she was a prospective juror in an October trial.
Marenkovic was working as a metro police officer in Washington, D.C. and said he was "shocked" when his department informed him he was the target of a West Virginia criminal investigation.
Chief Public Defender Shayne Welling pointed to the "unnecessary" testimony of some of the witnesses for the prosecution, which he said offered nothing pertaining to the allegations.
Where there were gaps in the evidence, he continued, the prosecution took the liberty of filling them with allegations advantageous to their case.
Ohio County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Turak said Marenkovic should have been the judicious of the two, regardless of job title.
"This man - 24 years old - knew better," Turak asserted. "You don't need to be a police officer to know it's wrong to have sex with 14-year-old girls."
At 7:35 p.m. Wednesday, about six hours after they adjourned for deliberation, Recht noted the jury was nearing a point of "diminishing returns." He granted their request for one more hour of deliberation but, when they submitted a question at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, he dismissed the 12 individuals for the evening.
If convicted, Marenkovic faces a maximum prison term of 10 years.