Back to the crime scene

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Devin Wayne Fuller, 19, 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire appeared before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John M. Solovan II Friday for a pre-trial conference.

He and Brandon Michael Phelps, 20, 1281 Birch St., Bellaire, are each accused of four counts of aggravated murder committed in the course of rape, of aggravated burglary, of burglary and of trespassing.

Each count carries two death penalty specifications. Both face two additional counts of trespassing. The crimes are alleged to have taken place June 29-30. The victim, Lydia Ashworth, 92, was found dead in her home.

Fuller was in a wheelchair at the time, reportedly after sustaining a minor injury to his knee.

Solovan granted a request by defense attorneys to view the Bellaire crime scene that day.

“As part of the discovery the defendant has the right to view the scene where the crime occurred, and that’s what’s occurring today. His counsel is going to view the scene of the crime,” said Prosecutor Chris Berhalter.

“We’re complying with all of the discovery requests made by the defendant, not only to ensure he has a fair trial but so we can move this matter forward.”

He added that all procedures will be followed.

“Going to where this crime occurred is going to be difficult, there’s no doubt. It was a scene of one of the most brutal crimes that I believe Belmont County experienced. However, it is necessary to continue to move this matter forward, and that is exactly what we want to occur.”

Solovan also sustained a request that Fuller be allowed to appear in court without restraints, with the provision that the sheriff’s office will be consulted in the matter. Phelps’ defense has made a similar request to Judge Jennifer Sargus.

Other issues included confirming that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections will release to the defense all information regarding Fuller. The defense’s demands for discovery and sharing of evidence was also granted. A reasonable witness list will also be provided.

Berhalter noted that BCI&I lab tests were continuing with no timeline of when results might be available.

A further pre-conference will be held March 1, 1 p.m.

DeFrank can be reached at