TAYLOR COUNTY—Last week in Taylor County Circuit Court, Dennis W. Sheppard entered into a negotiated plea agreement with the state of West Virginia.
Because of his crime, the defendant could spend a possible one-to-five years in prison, as well as pay a $2,500 fine.
As part of the deal, Taylor County Prosecuting Attorney John Bord reported that he would be recommending that Sheppard’s prison sentence be suspended and that he be placed on probation.
According to Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Alan D. Moats, the alleged strangulation occurred in Taylor County in October 2019.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the responding deputy, he and another officer arrived at the residence and made contact with Sheppard and his victim.
The female reported to both deputies that after an argument broke out with the defendant, he presented a large knife and made statements insinuating that he was going to physically harm the victim with the weapon.
Terrified, the victim grabbed the knife and threw it. According to the victim, the act enraged Sheppard and he grabbed her throat with both hands and began to choke her.
She told the officers that she felt like she was going to pass out during the attack and that she had begun to see white dots.
“It is true that I choked and shook my ex-wife,” said Sheppard in court. “I choked her because I had been drinking liquor and we got into an argument. You know what they say is true, that there’s a devil in the bottle.”
Defense Counsel for Sheppard, Scott Shough, said that during the duration of this client’s case, there have been no issues with him concerning the victim.
“They have since ended their relationship and there has been no contact,” revealed Shough. “Because of the health issues my client faces, his stay in jail was very hard on him. Mr. Sheppard has already served six months on this charge.”
“He has been instructed that should be released on probation, he is not to have any contact with the victim in this case, but as I have stated, there shouldn’t be an issue with that,” he added. “We are just asking that you sentence in accordance with the plea.”
Sheppard also reported to the court that he was attempting to address some of his underlying issues and was enrolled in counseling through the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center.
Moats, who had some concern with the defendant being release without some kind of supervision, ordered that Sheppard’s one-to-five-year prison sentence would be held in abeyance, and he would be placed on the Taylor County Community Corrections program.
“If you are able to successfully complete the program, I will consider the probation,” said Moats. “I know that you struggle with alcohol and that is something that needs addressed.”
In addition, Briston Edward Skidmore, who was indicted by the Taylor County Grand Jury on two counts of forgery of a public document, two counts of forgery and four counts of uttering in September was back in Circuit Court last week.
According to Moats, the defendant had been released on bond through the Taylor County Community Corrections Program, and then was allowed to transfer that to Monongalia County.
In March, the case manager in Mon County submitted a report that Skidmore continued to use drugs while on the program and they requested he be transferred back to the Taylor County program.
“Since that time, little has happened with Mr. Skidmore. He has failed to report in and when he did appear and was drug tested, he was positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine and suboxone,” disclosed Tammy Narog, Taylor County Community Corrections Director.
Defense Counsel Ashley Smith revealed that her client admitted he had suffered from a severe drug addiction.
“He also thought that because of everything going on with Coronavirus, that he did not have to check in,” she said. “He knows that he has a drug problem, and he knows that it is going to take more than just a 28-day program. He needs long-term treatment.”
Smith reported that upon talking to Narog, it was learned that Skidmore could attend a program at Southern Highlands Comm MH Center Inc Legends, in Princeton and then be transferred into the Inspire program.
“You have been in trouble for the past 10 years, in four different counties. It is very apparent that you have a severe drug addiction, but that is never going to stop unless you made the decision to change,” voiced Moats. “Only you can break the cycle. You have to change your mindset.”
With that, Moats ordered that Skidmore would be allowed to enter into the drug rehabilitation program, instead of being sent back to jail.
“Upon your completion of the program, you will be taken back to the regional jail until I have time to look into the matter,” Moats further ordered.