TAYLOR COUNTY—Taylor County Circuit Court was a busy place on Tuesday, as Judge Alan D. Moats heard numerous cases. One of the major cases involved a negotiate plea agreement in a murder case.
Justin E. Clark, 29, of Fairmont, was back in court to accept responsibility for his actions in the June 23, 2017 death of 39-year-old Grafton resident Frank Newbraugh. He, alongside his council Kevin Tipton, presented a negotiated plea agreement to the court.
Clark, who was originally charged with murder, agreed to enter a guilty plea to the lesser included offense of second-degree murder, which carries a potential determinant sentence of 10-40 years.
“Your sentence would be a set sentence and could be any amount of years in the 10-40-year range,” Moats told Clark. “After hearing your testimony, as well as your council’s comments toward sentencing and any statements that the victim’s family might provide, it would be up to me to determine how many years you will serve.”
During the hearing, the judge noted the severely black eye and a head laceration that were present on Clark. In an attempt to ensure that the defendant was thinking clearly, he addressed his concerns.
Clark revealed that he had been taken to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital for medical treatment, and that he has been treated for an orbital fracture and a small concussion. He further revealed that he had been prescribed Tramadol for pain.
“I have no question about my client’s ability to think clearly,” shared Tipton. “I have no question about his mental state, and I would say that he seems lucid.”
Throughout the hearing, Clark described the impulsive events that occurred the evening Newbraugh was shot, including the events leading up to his death and how they all came to be in a vehicle together.
It is the defendant’s account that his then girlfriend Samantha Dakon-Clark had made plans, without his knowledge, to meet up with the victim for a drug transaction.
In his testimony, Clark revealed that after numerous altercations in the vehicle, Newbraugh was shot, by him, to aid Dakon-Clark, the victim’s ex-girlfriend, who was reportedly being choked by him at the time.
Once shot, Dakon-Clark instructed the defendant to help her push the victim out of the car, which was carrying not only them, but four children. Clark claims that he did not know at the time that Newbraugh was fatally wounded but recalled seeing him stand and stagger as Dakon-Clark sped off.
Newbraugh’s body was found later that evening, alongside Riverside Drive, where Clark revealed he has been pushed out of the car following the shooting.
A presentence investigation was ordered, and Moats ruled that he would continue the matter until the report was completed, at which time a sentencing hearing would be held.
During that time, family members of the victim will have their turn to address the court.