Bellaire murder suspect facing weapons charge

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Brandon Michael Phelps, 20, 1281 Birch St., Bellaire, was arraigned before Judge Jennifer L. Sargus and pleaded not guilty to possession of a deadly weapon while under detention, a felony of the first degree with the alleged offense dating to Aug. 29, 2012.

A status conference was set for March 15, with the plea agreement deadline, April 12, and trial date, April 23. His bond of $1 million remains. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 11 years.

Prosecuting Attorney Chris Berhalter confirmed that a homemade weapon was found on Phelps while incarcerated.

Phelps and Devin Wayne Fuller, 19, 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire, are charged with four counts of aggravated murder, committed in the course of rape, of aggravated burglary, of burglary and of trespassing. Each count carries a death penalty specification. Both face two additional counts of trespassing.

The crimes are alleged to have taken place June 29-30. The victim, Lydia Ashworth, was found dead in her home.

Phelps will appear at another status conference March 4 at 1:30 p.m. During a previous status conference, Phelps’ defense challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty and asked it be taken off the table.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com.