Trial date scheduled in Bellaire murder case

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A potential trial date was set for Brandon Michael Phelps, 20, 1281 Birch St., Bellaire, when he appeared before Judge Jennifer L. Sargus Monday for a pre-trial hearing.

Phelps’ trial date was set for Jan. 2 , 2014. Two more pre-trials on May 13 and Aug. 19 are scheduled.

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 was also recently arraigned and pleaded not guilty to possession of a deadly weapon while under detention, a felony of the first degree. That issue will be continued.

During the pre-trial, Prosecutor Chris Berhalter confirmed that information sharing has continued. The jury questionnaire is being prepared and an analysis of the defendants’ communication is under way.

Sargus granted a request from defense for an additional $3,000 for a neuropsychologist evaluation and $7,000 for a forensic psychological evaluation for a total of $10,000.

During a previous status conference, Phelps’ defense challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty and asked it be taken off the table.

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