Suspects in Maryland man, witness slayings get more charges

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Four Maryland men are facing additional charges in connection with the kidnapping and slaying of a Maryland man in West Virginia, and the subsequent slayings of two witnesses.

The nine-count federal indictments against Monroe Merrell, David Ray Sanford Jr., John Westley Black III and Jeffrey Craig Smith Jr. were announced in a statement Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia.

The male victim, Jonathan Riddle, was killed in March. His body was discovered after authorities found a trail of blood leading to his flaming body in the area of Kabletown, West Virginia. An autopsy found he died of numerous stab wounds and blunt force trauma to the head.

Black, Merrell and Sanford were charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping for Riddle’s death earlier this year, according to charging documents and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. They now face additional charges in his death, including aiding and abetting kidnapping resulting in death.

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell said Tuesday the string of killings appears to have begun over a $40 debt. He did not provide additional details, but Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Steve Holz previously told the Carroll County Times that Riddle, 33, was first stabbed in Sanford’s Maryland apartment after a fight broke out when Riddle was accused of taking someone’s drugs.

Riddle had gone there to see Heather Grogg, charging documents said. She was a babysitter for Sanford and one of the witnesses who authorities said was killed in West Virginia in April.

Norman A. Bradford Jr., of West Virginia, was accused of providing a gun that was used to kill Grogg, 33, and helping dispose of her body. He and Smith have been charged with murder in her shooting death.

Sanford was charged with murder in the April death of the other witness, Danielle Tyler, 18, the Carroll County Times reported.

A West Virginia woman, April Lynn Braner, was accused of knowingly allowing both women to be killed in her home and providing a plastic bag to be used as a murder weapon, according to a criminal complaint obtained by news outlets. She also has been charged with murder.

It was not immediately clear if any of the suspects have an attorney who could comment on their behalf.