With the number of criminal cases in Wetzel County increasing at a rapid pace, Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught said "the writing was on the wall" that the county needed a full-time prosecuting attorney.
After making the official move to full time in July, Haught recently finished the last of the cases handled by his civil firm, allowing him to devote all of his time to prosecuting cases in Wetzel County.
"I had to phase out the civil practice, and that has taken a while to do completely," Haught said.
After being elected for his first term in 2001, Haught worked on cases on a part-time basis along with one other part-time assistant out of the prosecutor's office. However, the caseload has increased significantly over the past few years, including in 2012 when the office handled 135 felonies and 600 misdemeanors in addition to juvenile, child abuse and neglect, civil and mental hygiene cases.
"I think with W.Va. 2 being a major throughway here, and the increased traffic, that plays a large part in the case increase," Haught said.
Those felony cases included 29 individuals indicted in connection with a prescription pill ring at the New Martinsville Villa apartments.
Over a six-month period, Haught said he and law enforcement officials logged more than 1,000 hours in investigating the case, with the indictments and arrests announced in September.
Halfway through the process, Haught approached the Wetzel County Commission about the increased caseload and suggested making the switch to full time. The commissioners offered their full support, Haught said, and the switch took effect July 1.
"It was an unusual year for us," he said. "With (the drug case) and the extra indictments, we were able to do it as part time, but with the number of cases and the way cases are scheduled, it became necessary to become full time."