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Wetzel Sex Case Trial Date Set

By Staff | Sep 29, 2015

MOUNDSVILLE – After five years of court proceedings and deliberations, a Wetzel County sexual assault case is set for trial this winter.

John Michael Howell, a 46-year-old New Martinsville resident, pleaded not guilty to a four-count indictment charging him with felony sexual assault and kidnapping, occurring Dec. 14, 2010, in Wetzel County. He allegedly stabbed his former wife’s breast implant with a syringe and punched her genitals with his fist after she attempted to leave his home with their child.

Howell appeared Monday before Senior Status Judge Arthur Recht in Marshall County Circuit Court.

After years of legal proceedings, the case was moved to Marshall County in July 2014, after Howell spat on Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught during a court proceeding.

During the hearing, Howell’s defense team, consisting of attorneys Mark Panepinto and Keith White, discussed evidence and jury questionnaires with Assistant Prosecutor Herman Lantz.

Earlier this month, Lantz said evidential items for the case would not be prepared by the originally planned trial date of Sept. 28 because of testing requirements at the West Virginia University lab in Morgantown, but said the state did not need the evidence for its case, as they possessed the victim’s medical records.

The defense disagreed, which prompted Recht to re-set the trial for Jan. 5.

Also Monday, Lantz and the defense team met with Recht in his office for a two-hour closed-door session concerning photographic evidence that will and won’t be used in the trial.

The parties also discussed the upcoming evidence showing, slated to be held at the Howell’s former home and his parents’ current home, where the victim allegedly ran to after the incident. Panepinto said he would work with Lantz to obtain permission to use Howell’s former home, as it was foreclosed and now occupied by new owners.

Recht said he would order the owners to allow use of the home if they did not comply willingly.

“In all my years I have never dealt with this issue,” Recht said. “I will order it and access will be obtained. I hope it does not come to that, but let me know if it is needed and I will make it happen.”

Panepinto replied by commenting on the duration of the case and property problem being a new issue for Recht.

“That is probably because you don’t let most cases sit on your bench for five years,” Panepinto said.

Questionnaires will be mailed Nov. 12 with a completion deadline of Nov. 28 for the Jan. 4 jury selection. Howell remains lodged in jail after Recht denied a bond reduction earlier this month.