Fugitives arraigned, trials set for February
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Two former fugitives were arraigned Thursday and face charges related to a child pornography case.
Wesley Alan Burdge, 44, and his girlfriend, Tabitha Lea Gallagher, 38, both of 108 Markatan St., Flushing, appeared before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra.
Burdge pleaded not guilty to two counts of pandering sexually-oriented matter involving a minor, a felony of the second degree, and two counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance, a felony of the fifth degree, all occurring Oct. 11. His pre-trial was set for Jan. 14, with plea agreement Jan. 28 and trial Feb. 13. Vavra set bond at $500,000. If convicted, he could be designated a Tier 2 offender.
Gallagher pleaded innocent to obstruction of justice, a felony of the third degree occurring Oct. 11. Her pre-trial hearing was also set for Jan. 14, with plea Jan. 28. Her trial was scheduled for Feb. 14. Her bond was set at $25,000.
Burdge and Gallagher had been fugitives since October, after detectives served a search warrant the Markatan Street residence in Flushing in October as part of an investigation of their roommate, John Null Garwon III. The Internet Crimes Against Children Division of the Belmont County Major Crimes Unit had received evidence from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating Garwon had been sharing child pornography on the internet. Garwon was arrested, but Burdge and Gallagher reportedly fled with their two children, ages 1 and 5. They were arrested in early November after a lengthy manhunt.
According to the Belmont County Prosecutor’s office, Burdge, Gallagher and Garwon had been residing together at 108 Markatan St., Flushing.
Law enforcement had searched for the couple for close to a month in the fall before they were apprehended in Washington, Pennsylvania, with their two young children.
The Belmont County Sheriff’s Department has indicated the possibility of additional charges in the future, depending on the results of an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification examination of their computer and phone data.
Garwon, 43, has been arraigned and is charged with pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor and rape. His trial is scheduled for March 12. He is incarcerated in lieu of $250,000 bond. The offenses carry maximum sentences of eight years in prison and life without parole, respectively, and designation as a Tier 3 sex offender.