Murder suspect in court

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Brandon Michael Phelps, 20, 1281 Birch St., Bellaire, appeared Monday before Belmont County Common Pleas Court Judge Jennifer L. Sargus on a status conference.

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, burglary and trespassing. Each count carries a death penalty specification. Both face two additional counts of trespassing.

The crimes are alleged to have taken place June of 2012. The victim, 92-year-old Lydia Ashworth, was found dead in her home.

Phelps was later arraigned for possession of a deadly weapon while under detention, a felony of the first degree.

Prosecutor Chris Berhalter related some details of evidence sharing. Another pre-trial was set for Aug. 19. Phelps trial date was set for Jan. 2.

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

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