ST. CLAIRSVILLE - A jury tasked with deciding whether Devin Wayne Fuller was responsible for the June 30, 2012, murder of Lydia Ashworth could return a verdict today.
After meeting for several hours Wednesday, jurors broke from deliberations at 6 p.m. They were expected to reconvene this morning with hopes of reaching a verdict.
Fuller, 20, of 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire, faces two counts of aggravated murder committed in the course of rape and aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of burglary and two counts of trespassing for his alleged involvement in the incident.
Prior to closing arguments Wednesday, Fuller's mother, Crystal Boyd, and stepbrother, Brandon Boyd testified that Fuller spent the evening of June 29 at Brandon Boyd's residence in Bellaire with a third brother. Brandon Boyd said he went to sleep at about 2 or 3 a.m. that night.
Following testimony, Assistant District Attorney Paul Scarsella gave a closing statement for the prosecution, saying there was ample evidence showing Fuller intended the worst.
"She is a 92-year-old woman. She was in her home," he said. "Whoever did this to Lydia Ashworth intended that she die."
He added the state of Ashworth's body inferred a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault had occurred.
"They're there to steal," Scarsella said, adding Ashworth was likely killed to eliminate a witness who could identify the perpetrators. "There was a decision made to kill her."
Scarsella said there was no question about the source of the hair found in the residence. He also noted the proximity of the hair to the body and that the best DNA results are derived from hair with the root intact, as if pulled.
"Devin Wayne Fuller was in the house that night. Devin Wayne Fuller was on the side of the bed that night," Scarsella said. "How else is that hair going to end up where it did?"
He said the prosecution proved its case.
"There is no accident in this death. There's no mistake in this death. This was the purposeful killing of a 92-year-old woman," he said.
Fuller's attorney Kirk McVey argued the state of the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. While one hair from Fuller was found in the area around the body that was vacuumed for evidence, the prosecution could not positively state whether the hair was from the bedding or the floor.
McVey said there is no connection between Fuller and the premises and no connection between him and the stolen items. He said a hair could very easily be transferred from one place to another, adding Fuller had been friends and in close contact with Brandon Michael Phelps, whose hair color matches the majority of foreign hairs found at the scene. Phelps faces similar charges stemming from the alleged incident.
McVey also said investigators had lax control of the crime scene and hair could have been tracked from other parts of the house to the body.
"Things were handled haphazardly," he said. "How foolproof is this science?"
McVey said investigators acted on the assumption that a sexual assault took place, which may have led to ignoring other evidence. He said the jury could not rule out an infection or other cause of injuries. Additionally, no semen was found at the scene and the wounds to Ashworth's hands suggest defensive actions, not grabbing and hair pulling.
Belmont County Prosecutor Dan Fry said McVey was attempting to confuse and obscure the central DNA evidence, which he called an elephant in the room.
"They throw noise at you and hope that some of it sticks," he said. "Mr. Fuller left his calling card that night. He didn't know it ... DNA exonerates you, and DNA convicts you."