NEW CUMBERLAND - After facing a first-degree murder charge and possible life imprisonment, Chelsea Metz walked out of a Hancock County courtroom this week with a misdemeanor conviction and a $50 fine.
During a pretrial hearing before Judge Fred Fox II, Prosecutor James Davis Jr. agreed to dismiss felony murder, conspiracy and burglary charges against Metz, who was arrested Dec. 12 in connection with an alleged burglary attempt at the A&M Quick Stop in Weirton involving her, James Sands II and Dakota Givens, all 18-year-old Follansbee residents. Police believe they intended to steal a form of imitation marijuana from the store.
The alleged burglary plot turned deadly when store owner Maher A. Alwishah, who also lives in the building, fatally shot Givens as he was entering a window. Davis declined to prosecute Alwishah and instead sought murder indictments against Metz and Sands, contending the owner's actions were justified and that because Givens was shot while committing a felony, West Virginia law holds his alleged co-conspirators responsible for his death.
However, Davis said evidence in the case would have made it difficult to prove Metz's involvement went beyond being "along for the ride." She pleaded guilty to obstructing an officer, a misdemeanor, based on false statements Davis said she initially made to Weirton police.
"She corrected that later, and based upon that, and based upon the continuing investigation which didn't reveal any further involvement ... it was determined just to cut her loose and focus on Sands," said Davis.
Court documents indicate Metz waited in the backseat of a vehicle about a block away as Givens and Sands allegedly approached the store on South 11th Street. Minutes later, she heard gunshots and Sands came running back to the vehicle and told her Givens had been shot, according to court documents. Arriving officers reportedly found Givens lying on the pavement outside the store, with Metz holding up Givens' head and Sands standing next to them.
Davis added the state fully intends to pursue the first-degree murder charge against Sands, who also is charged with felony burglary and conspiracy.
A defense motion to dismiss the murder charge against Sands is pending, which Davis said likely won't be addressed until mid-April. No hearing date has been set, and Sands remains free on $50,000 bond.