Kanawha prosecutors to handle trial of Mingo sheriff's alleged killer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County prosecutors will handle the murder trial of former Mingo County sheriff Eugene Crum's alleged killer.Tennis Maynard, 33, of Delbarton, is accused of gunning down Crum in April as the sheriff sat in his police cruiser in downtown Williamson.Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks stepped down from the case last week, citing an "emerging conflict of interest." The next day, Sparks was mentioned in a federal charge against Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.The executive director of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute, which is responsible for assigning special prosecutors when necessary, said Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants accepted the case on Monday."They have the people power to do it," said Philip Morrison.Plants said he and assistant prosecutor Fred Giggenbach would prosecute Maynard."The only decision was if we had a conflict of interest and we don't have any conflicts," Plants said at a news conference Tuesday.Cabell Circuit Judge Paul Farrell will preside over the trial in Williamson, which is set to begin Dec. 9.Plants said he has requested court files from Sparks and will review evidence and meet with potential witnesses before deciding if the December date is feasible."We will move forward with the prosecution as soon as possible," he said.
Maynard is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and fleeing with reckless indifference.Maynard fled to Delbarton after the shooting, where police say he pointed a gun at Mingo Sheriff's Deputy Norman Mines. Mines opened fire, hitting Maynard several times.Sparks is trying not to lose his law license after the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel accused him of not reporting and even taking part in conspiracies of which Thornsbury is accused. He denies any wrongdoing.Sparks had worked with Crum in a prescription-pill crackdown known as "Operation Zero Tolerance." Sparks later said that Crum's slaying is not connected to drugs but did not speculate on a possible motive.Maynard's father and brother said after a hearing last month that Crum sexually assaulted Maynard as a teenager. Sparks said he appointed investigators to look into those allegations and that they found no evidence to support that allegation.
Plants said he doesn't have any specific knowledge about the case yet."But come Thursday, when I have the file, I'll obviously make myself aware of all the evidence," he said. @tag:Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.  
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