A Belle man says he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed 51-year-old Nelson Maynard Mitchell earlier this year.
Wednesday was the first day of the murder trial for Jeffrey Adam Wentz, who goes by his middle name, in Kanawha Circuit Court.
No one on Wednesday disputed whether Wentz shot Mitchell — a significant portion of the shooting was filmed by a surveillance camera at a business next door to Wentz’s home — but the prosecutor and Wentz’s defense attorney disagree on the exact reasoning as to why Wentz shot Mitchell.
In particular, arguments on Wednesday hinged on what Mitchell was doing as he turned his body while he held a rock in his hand as Wentz, 33, shot him on May 2, 2019.
Kanawha Assistant Prosecutors J.C. MacCallum and Justin Marlowe said Wentz shot Mitchell while Mitchell and his girlfriend were attempting to run away from the scene after seeing Wentz with the gun.
Wentz’s attorneys Mark Atkinson and Michael Hissam said Wentz shot Mitchell in self-defense because he thought Mitchell was going to throw a rock at him and attack him.
Wentz was inside of his home, which was a few feet above the ground Mitchell was standing on when Wentz shot Mitchell.
MacCallum played the relevant surveillance video for the jury Wednesday. One camera, which caught the bulk of the events leading up to, and including, the shooting, didn’t have audio. Another camera farther away from the scene captured some audio of the shooting and the events immediately after.
MacCallum said Mitchell, his girlfriend, Brittany Wherle, and her friend, Chelsea Ward, had shoplifted a stroller and car seat from Walmart in Quincy on May 2, with the intention of trading it with Wentz for heroin.
The trio traveled to Wentz’s home together, and Ward brought the stroller to Wentz’s home along West Dupont Avenue in Belle a few minutes before 2 p.m. that day.
Ward is shown in the video going into the apartment, and Wherle is shown walking up to the residence after a few minutes. She leaves and returns a short time later with Mitchell, who opens Wentz’s storm door and kicks a main door behind it before he and Wherle walk away. Four men exit Wentz’s residence after Mitchell and his girlfriend leave and follow them. The four men don’t appear in the video again.
Wentz also exited his apartment carrying a gun and followed the group and later came back inside.
After another few minutes, Wherle and Mitchell came back, and they could be heard screaming at Wentz to “throw it out,” referring to the heroin, MacCallum said. MacCallum told the jury Mitchell was “dope sick” at the time of the shooting, meaning he was experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
While they yell, Mitchell throws about eight rocks at windows in Wentz’s home, busting out all visible windows there.
The next point in the video is when Wentz, who is in his home and not visible in the video, shot three times through his front door, with one bullet striking Mitchell in the back, killing him.
After the shooting, Wentz is heard saying, “I’m going to jail! I f---ing killed him!”
Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Piotr Kubiczek testified Wednesday that the bullet went through both of Mitchell’s lungs and his aorta. Even though there was methamphetamine and fentanyl in his system at the time of his death, Kubiczek said it was the gunshot that killed Mitchell.
The trial will continue Thursday before Judge Tod Kaufman.
Wentz is incarcerated at South Central Regional Jail.