Accused Murderer Among Grand Jury Indictments

An Ohio County grand jury returned indictments against 20 people, chief among them Branden Ensminger, accused of murdering his girlfriend on Wheeling Island.

Ensminger, 27, of Wellsburg, faces charges of murder, robbery, gross child neglect and fraud after his arrest earlier this year in connection with the death of Rayna Vaughan, who was his girlfriend at the time. Vaughan was found dead at her apartment on March 21, having apparently been dead “for some time” after being killed from blunt force trauma to the head.

When Ensminger was arrested on a warrant for an unrelated charge in Weirton, police said they found Vaughan’s driver’s license and EBT card in his possession, as well as numerous items of clothing covered in blood, which was identified as being consistent with Vaughan’s.

Others interviewed who said they had visited Ensminger at the apartment allegedly told police they had seen a woman lying on the floor under a blanket, not moving, on March 19, two days prior to Vaughan’s discovery.

Searching Ensminger’s messages on his phone, police allegedly found a conversation between him and Vaughan where he made numerous threats on her life, culminating in a warning that Vaughan “had best eat your Wheaties, your gonna be feeling it later on.” The messages were allegedly sent on March 16.

In the time before his arrest, Ensminger allegedly was seen on camera shopping at the Wheeling Island Convenient store. He reportedly was using Vaughan’s ID and EBT card at that time.

He remains lodged at the Northern Regional Jail. Prosecutor Scott Smith declined to offer comment on any developments which came to light during Ensminger’s preliminary hearings, except to say that he remains presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Also indicted are:

∫ Richard Martin, 28, of Wheeling, sex offender registration, second offense.

∫ Jack Spencer, 34, of Wheeling, domestic battery third offense.

∫ John Herring, 24, of Wheeling, malicious assault.

∫ James Davis, 50, of Wheeling, malicious assault.

∫ Stefan Cooper Sr., 50, of McClellandtown, Pa., reckless fleeing, entering without breaking, and conspiracy.

∫ Carrie Jeter, 41, of Washington, Pa., entering without breaking and conspiracy.

∫ Daniel Burton, 46, of Wheeling, entry of a building other than a dwelling and forgery.

∫ Brittant Bennett, 22, of Weirton, robbery.

∫ Cody Stewart, 29, of Follansbee, malicious assault.

∫ Daniel Fender, 37, of Wheeling, assault on an officer and reckless fleeing.

∫ David Jackson, 38, of Wheeling, fraudulent use of an access device, breaking and entering and grand larceny.

∫ Jason Cook, 37, of Wheeling, entering without breaking and fraudulent use of an access device.

Trial dates will be set in Circuit Court on Wednesday and Thursday.


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