Analysis complete in child porn case

Former fugitives facing trial in May

Burdge

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The state’s analysis of evidence is complete in the case against two former fugitives in a child pornography case, and their May trial dates remain.

Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato heard updates on the cases of Wesley Alan Burdge, 44, and his girlfriend, Tabitha Lea Gallagher, 38, former residents of Markatan Street, Flushing.

Burdge is accused of two counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, a second-degree felony, and two counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance, a fifth-degree felony, all allegedly occurring Oct. 11. Gallagher is accused of obstruction of justice, a felony of the third degree occurring Oct. 11.

Charges stem from an incident in October, when detectives served a search warrant at their residence in the course of an investigation of the couple’s 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 the children, ages 1 and 5. They eventually were arrested in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Gallagher

They had the children with them. The children were placed with a foster family.

Belmont County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Vavra said the evidence sharing process continues and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification has completed an examination of computer and phone data from the residence.

“The state did receive, a couple of weeks ago, some additional discovery,” Vavra said.

“Other than that, we remain on track for trial.”

“Mr. Vavra and I have been having discussions regarding potentiality for resolution.

“We’re not there yet,” Burdge’s attorney, Brent Clyburn, said.

Fregiato noted Burdge’s next appeared will be May 6 for a plea agreement hearing.

“Trial will go forward unless resolved otherwise,” Fregiato said.

Vavra gave a similar report in Gallagher’s case.

Her trial was moved from May 28 to May 29 due to Memorial Day pushing Monday’s court hearings ahead. Gallagher’s attorney, Bruce Clark, agreed.

Burdge and Gallagher are being held in the Belmont County Jail. Burdge has a bond of $500,000 and Gallagher’s bond is $25,000.

Meanwhile, Garwon, 43, faces charges of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor and rape. His trial date of April 23 has been rescheduled to Aug. 13 before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra. The judge’s office indicated Garwon has obtained a new attorney. He is incarcerated in lieu of $250,000 bond.

Chief Detective Ryan Allar with the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office said the data seized was voluminous.

“(Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification) did complete the exhaustive examination of all the additional evidence we submitted to them. Several archives, a terrabyte’s worth of information. It took them a great deal of time to get through,” Allar said, adding that the sheriff’s department presented the findings to the prosecutor’s office. “They’re currently weighing their options for additional charges or not. That’ll be their decision.”

“At this point, I can’t say (if more charges will be forthcoming),” Joseph Vavra said. “I don’t think it’s going to necessitate any continuance.”

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