West Virginia
Victims of the State

12 Cases

Map of Counties

U.S. Cases


County:   Cabell   Grant   Greenbrier
Kanawha   Marshall   Mercer   Mingo

Cabell County, WV
Glen Woodall

Glen Woodall was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and robbing two separate victims. He was sentenced to 2 life terms plus 203 to 335 years. DNA tests exonerated him in 1992. Woodall was the first person to be exonerated after being convicted due to testimony by Fred Zain. He was awarded $1 million for his wrongful imprisonment and for the fraud committed by Zain.  (IP) (DNA)  [10/05]

Cabell County, WV
Wilbert Thomas

Wilbert Thomas was convicted of raping a 19-year-old Marshall University student. In 1999, a federal magistrate recommended that Thomas's rape conviction be overturned after he found that: (1) Trooper Howard Myers never performed the serology test, which he testified linked Thomas to the crime. (2) The judge in Thomas's first trial officially recorded the jury as hung on the sexual assault charge and declared a mistrial on this charge when in fact the jury acquitted Thomas on this charge. (3) DNA tests showed Thomas could not have committed the crime. The state has agreed to release Thomas, but has still refused to concede that Thomas is innocent or admit that he was convicted in violation of his constitutional rights.  (Justice: Denied)  [10/05]

Grant County, WV
Paul Ferrell
Feb 17, 1988

Paul William Ferrell, a rookie sheriff's deputy, was convicted of the murder of Cathy Ford, a 19-year-old waitress from nearby Maryland. Her body has never been found and no one had ever seen her with Ferrell. Some time after Ford's disappearance, her boyfriend, Darvin Moon, discovered her badly burned truck 75 yards from Ford's trailer home. Some believed that the truck was burned elsewhere because there was no scorching on the vegetation surrounding the vehicle.
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Greenbrier County, WV
Marybeth Davis

Marybeth Davis was convicted of the attempted murder of her son and the murder of her daughter. In Sept 1981, Davis's two-month old son Seth went into convulsions and ended up in a permanent vegetative state. Six months later Davis's daughter Megan went into convulsions and died. Following these incidents, police launched an investigation, but concluded there was not enough evidence of foul play to charge Davis with any crime.

In 1995, Davis's case was reopened by State Trooper Michael Spradlin as part of a task force committed to solving cold cases. The following year, prosecutor Mark Burnette took the case to trial, stating “the medical evidence was overwhelming.” The prosecution claimed Davis injected Seth with insulin and poisoned Megan with caffeine. It also presented Dr. Basil Zitelli to give his expert opinion that Davis committed the alleged crimes because she suffered from Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Münchausen Syndrome is an alleged psychological disorder in which one feigns, exaggerates, or creates symptoms of illness in oneself in order to gain the sympathy or attention of others. Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy is similar except that one purportedly feigns, exaggerates, or creates symptoms of illness in another person, such as a child, in order to gain sympathy.

Following Davis's conviction, Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy was debunked by many experts in psychology. Courts in England and Australia have prohibited medical experts from testifying that anyone has MSBP after ruling the syndrome is merely descriptive and not a psychiatrically identifiable illness or condition.

Advanced testing showed that Seth's illness was related to a human growth hormone deficiency and other evidence showed that that Megan died from from a rare condition known as Reye's Syndrome. In 2007 Davis was released from prison after agreeing to a plea deal, that gave her a time served sentence.  (Justice)  [11/09]

Kanawha County, WV
Robert Bailey
Oct 22, 1949

Robert Ballard Bailey was sentenced to death for the murder of Charleston tavern keeper Rosina Fazio. Fazio, 56, was found badly beaten and died three days after being robbed of cash and diamond jewelry. Before she died, Fazio reportedly told three witnesses that her assailant was “Bob, the glass cutter,” whom the state contended was Bailey. However, Bailey had an solid, although unflattering alibi. Numerous witnesses who knew Bailey attested to his being very drunk at the time of the murder and to being the driver of the car that careened madly down the roads, hotly pursued by the police. None of the witnesses who identified him as the murderer knew him. Following Bailey's conviction, his trial judge, Jackson Savage, who not convinced of Bailey's guilt, was in tears as he pronounced Bailey's mandatory death sentence. In 1951, after an investigation by the Court of Last Resort, Bailey's death sentenced was commuted to life imprisonment. In 1960, Bailey was released after being granted a conditional pardon, and in 1966, the conditions of Bailey's pardon were dropped, effectively giving him a full pardon.  (CWC)  [7/05]

Kanawha County, WV
Larry Holdren
Dec 28, 1982

Larry David Holdren was convicted of the rape of Cheryl Martin-Schroeder. The victim was assaulted while she was jogging along Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston. DNA testing exonerated Holdren in 2000.  (Holdren v. Legursky) (Holdren v. State) (IP)  [10/05]

Kanawha County, WV
William Harris
Dec 16, 1984

William O'Dell Harris was convicted of rape. At trial, the victim identified Harris as her assailant even though earlier she was unable to identify him from a photo lineup. Police lab technician Fred Zain testified that genetic markers left in the recovered semen matched only Harris and 5.9% of the population. A detective who testified at trial was later convicted of perjury. DNA tests exonerated Harris in 1995.  (IP) (DNA)  [10/05]

Kanawha County, WV
Gerald & Dewey Davis
Feb 18, 1986

Gerald Wayne Davis was convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault. His father Dewey Davis was convicted of similar charges for being present and doing nothing to stop the alleged crimes. Forensic testing involved police lab technician Fred Zain, who had given discredited testimony in other cases. The alleged victim fabricated the charges, as DNA testing exonerated Gerald Davis and his father in 1995.  (IP1) (IP2) (DNA)  [5/05]

Kanawha County, WV
James Richardson
May 18, 1988 (Cross Lanes)

While standing outside his father's house on Big Tyler Road in Cross Lanes, WV, James E. Richardson, Jr. saw another house on fire. He entered the burning house and carried 3-year-old Lindsay Gilfilen to safety. Inside the house, police found the charred body of Lindsay's mother, Kelli. She had been bound, raped, and beaten to death. Richardson was arrested for the crime almost immediately. At trial, Fred Zain, an analyst at the West Virginia State Police crime laboratory, told the jury that Richardson's semen had been found on the victim. Richardson was convicted. DNA tests later proved Zain wrong and Richardson's conviction was vacated. The state did not retry Richardson and formally dismissed all charges against him in 1999.  (News Article) (48 Hours) (IP)  [5/08]

Marshall County, WV
Frank & Norma Howell
Sept 5, 1929

Frank and Norma Howell were charged with the armed robbery of $67 from Jack Cotts's Esso gas station, located on Waynesburg Pike, about three miles east of Moundsville. The robbers were a tall slim man and a short stout woman, a description that fit the Howells. Despite presenting alibi evidence, Frank was convicted due to the eyewitness testimony of Jack Cotts. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Norma was acquitted at a separate trial, although the evidence against her appeared stronger than that against Frank. On leaving the courthouse following her acquittal, Norma was arrested for a robbery in Cadiz, Ohio, but was subsequently acquitted of that charge.

In 1931 Irene Crawford Schroeder and Walter Glenn Dague, two convicts awaiting execution in Pennsylvania, confessed to the robbery of Cotts's Esso station as well as the Cadiz, Ohio robbery. Frank Howell's prosecution attorney, his defense attorney, Jack Cotts, and others went to Pennsylvania to hear the confessions, which were recorded in a detailed affidavit. After the visit, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Schroeder and Dague were guilty and that the Howells were innocent. Officials recommended the pardon of Frank Howell and WV Governor Conley granted it shortly thereafter.  (CTI)  [6/08]

Mercer County, WV
Payne Boyd
May 30, 1918 (Modoc)

In 1918, a black coal miner named Cleveland Boyd was convicted on vagrancy complaints. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $25. The judge who convicted him, Squire H. E. Cook, and a deputy sheriff, A. M. Godfrey, then prepared to take him to the jail at Matoaka. Boyd, however, pleaded to stop at his home about 100 yards away where he could exchange his new shoes for older, more comfortable ones. On stopping at his home, Boyd retrieved a revolver and shot the judge twice, mortally wounding him. The deputy sheriff fled for his life. Boyd fled into the hills and escaped capture.
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Mingo County, WV
Clyde Beale
May 9, 1926 (Vulcan)

Clyde Beale was convicted of the murder of Mrs. Rissie Perdue. Beale's half-brother Levi Layne operated a store in Vulcan, WV. After Perdue broke the heel of her shoe, she and her husband went to the store to buy a pair of slippers. Liquor was mentioned and a bottle was produced. Later the entire party adjourned to Layne's house where they staged a party during which Perdue disappeared. Her body was found several days later in the Tug River. An autopsy found evidence of violence. Beale said he was at the party before the Perdues arrived and had never seen them before.

In relating how he came to be accused, Beale claimed his half-brother's wife, Minnie Layne, wanted to get rid of her husband and therefore accused both him and her husband of the murder and swore falsely against them at trial. The jury that tried Beale's brother failed to agree and when the case was called a second time, it was thrown out. Beale, however, was convicted and sentenced to death. Following sentencing, Minnie Layne and her children went to the judge and told him they had testified falsely at trial.

The trial judge commuted Beale's sentence to life imprisonment, but the prosecution appealed to the state supreme court which ordered the judge to reschedule Beale's execution. The judge resigned rather than comply. However, in 1929 a new judge followed the orders. Shortly thereafter the governor commuted Beale's sentence to life imprisonment. In 1933, Beale was granted a conditional pardon and released. In 1949, the state governor granted Beale a full pardon.  (PPG) (RE) (NYT) (ISI)  [12/10]