MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood was arrested by the University Police Department on Monday as a fugitive from justice. Smallwood was wanted in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, for allegedly intimidating a witness in a murder case.
Wilmington’s News Journal reported Monday that Smallwood, 20, will be charged for repeated attempts to have a witness to a 2012 murder recant a statement that implicated Smallwood’s friend, who is charged with first-degree murder.
Smallwood was still being held in the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County on Tuesday morning without bail and awaiting extradition to Delaware.
According to WVU police chief Bob Roberts, representatives from the Wilmington Police Department and the State Attorney General Office arrived in Morgantown and told WVU police they needed to speak to Smallwood. The WVU football office assisted in contacting Smallwood and Smallwood, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore, agreed to meet with the law enforcement officials.
Roberts said they interviewed Smallwood and then made the arrest. Smallwood then signed extradition papers so that he could be returned to Delaware and formally charged.
A Wilmington Police Department spokesperson told the News Journal that Smallwood “called to try to get a witness to come and make a false statement to police recanting previous statements.” The alleged calls happened in March and May of 2013. Smallwood enrolled at WVU in January 2013.
Messages left with the Wilmington police and the attorney general’s office were not immediately returned.
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen told the Charleston Daily Mail on Monday he was aware of the arrest and monitoring the situation.
“We are looking into the matter and will take action at the appropriate time,” he said.
Delaware lawmakers passed a bill in May that strengthened penalties for witness intimidation, an act that had become a major obstacle to prosecute and convict in major cases. The law reclassifies an “Act of Intimidation” as a Class D felony and a penalty of up to eight years in prison, and an “Aggravated Act of Intimidation” as a Class B felony and a penalty of two to 25 years in prison.
Smallwood was groomed throughout his freshman season as the successor to Charles Sims and his versatile role in the Mountaineers offense. He carried 39 times for 221 yards and a touchdown and caught 11 passes for 132 yards and also led the team with 30 kickoff returns for 529 yards.
After spring football, where Smallwood consistently earned rave reviews and was once said to be the team’s best inside receiver, he was listed as the second running back on a crowded depth chart and as a kickoff returner.