Friday, April 02, 2010

Key players in the Wesley Earnest murder trial

Prosecutors contend Wesley Earnest murdered his estranged wife, Jocelyn Earnest, and staged it to look like a suicide. He was in debt and wanted to sell the couple's jointly owned home at Smith Mountain Lake. But if the home hadn't found a buyer by March 2008, when their divorce would be final, the sale price would be far less than he wanted, they said. Wesley Earnest's attorneys, too, cast doubt on suicide, and suggested Jocelyn Earnest was killed by one of her two closest friends, both of whom were at her home with her body before police arrived.

Wesley Earnest, defendant: Denies killing his wife. He says he was home in Chesapeake the day she was killed, resting to recover from allergies.

Jocelyn Earnest, victim: Found dead in her Forest home from a gunshot wound to the head. Married in 1995, the Earnests had been separated for more than a year and were in the process of a divorce.

Shameka Wright, Wesley Earnest's girlfriend: Wright, a former Lynchburg police officer, couldn't reach Wesley Earnest on his cellphone on the evening Jocelyn Earnest was killed. Said cellphone reception in Earnest's Chesapeake neighborhood was "spotty."

Marcy Shepherd, friend and co-worker of Jocelyn Earnest: Said she shared a romantic but chaste relationship with Jocelyn Earnest. Found Earnest dead in her living room when she went to check up on her. Wesley Earnest's attorney suggested in court that she was in fact the murderer. Said the victim told her she "was afraid of Wes Earnest."

David Hall, teacher at Wesley Earnest's school: Earnest borrowed his truck for three days in December, returning it the day after Jocelyn Earnest was found dead. A few weeks later, Earnest borrowed the truck again and returned it with new tires, though the existing tires were in good condition. Earnest told him he had driven over a board with nails and punctured two tires.

Maysa Munsey, friend and co-worker of Jocelyn Earnest: Was the second person to arrive at Jocelyn Earnest's house after Marcy Shepherd found her dead. Wesley Earnest's attorneys suggested Munsey might have killed her friend because Jocelyn Earnest might have knowledge of Munsey stealing Social Security numbers from files in their office. Munsey was charged with misdemeanor identity theft in Amherst County.

Joseph Sanzone, defense lawyer: Is trying to show that two co-workers of Jocelyn Earnest at Genworth Financial also had the opportunity and motive to kill her.

Randy Krantz, commonwealth's attorney: In trying to further establish motive, Krantz says Jocelyn Earnest left Wesley Earnest "holding the bag" when it came to the mortgage on their million-dollar lake house.

Judge James Updike: Earnest had been scheduled to stand trial in December, but Updike agreed to postpone the trial to give the state's forensic lab time to analyze evidence.

Wes Nance, deputy commonwealth's attorney: Pursued a two-pronged strategy to convict Wesley Earnest, trying on one hand to convince jurors that Jocelyn Earnest's death was not a suicide, while simultaneously offering evidence he said points to Wesley Earnest as her killer.

Friends, co-workers of Jocelyn Earnest: Three friends said Earnest was sunny, upbeat and friendly. They had never heard her speak of handguns, much less seen her with one.

Mike Mayhew, Bedford County sheriff's investigator: Said the box that originally held the gun found by Jocelyn Earnest's side was found by investigators in the Campbell County home of Wesley Earnest's girlfriend, Shameka Wright.

Andrew Johnson and Ken Riding, forensic scientists: Said Wesley Earnest's fingerprints were found on the suicide note. They didn't know when the prints were left.

Amy Tharp, state medical examiner: Said Jocelyn Earnest's head wounds were inconsistent with suicide. The bullet entered the back right side of the head and exited near the left temple, and the gun was held at least 2 inches from the head, an awkward position for someone killing herself.

Gary Babb, investigator with the prosecutor's office: Said two laptops that Jocelyn Earnest used turned up no evidence that she had written the suicide note on the computers.

Marjorie Harris, Virginia Department of Forensic Science: Said bloodstains on the carpet of Jocelyn Earnest's home, where her body was found, show she had been moved 2 feet or more, possibly within seconds of a gunshot wound to the head.

Rick Keuhne, Chesapeake tire store manager: Said in January 2008, a man bought four tires for David Hall's truck using the name Tom Dunbar of Roanoke, paying cash. The tires on the truck weren't punctured when the customer drove it onto the store lot.

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