Homicide, threat cases continued
WELLSBURG – Cases involving the shooting death of Jason Lee Pratz and alleged threats by a Wellsburg man were the focus of two status hearings Tuesday in 1st Judicial Circuit Court in Brooke County.
Rocco Jesse Zuccaro, 28, of Burgettstown, appeared before 1st Judicial Circuit Court Judge Ronald Wilson with his attorney, Michael Nogay.
Zuccaro has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder filed by the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department in connection with the shooting death of Pratz. Pratz, who was 30, was found dead in his McKinleyville home on Feb. 19, 2013.
Nogay and Brooke County Prosecutor Joseph Barki III told Wilson they still are attempting to confirm Zuccaro’s competency to stand trial.
Barki said a psychologist for the defense has stated Zuccaro will need three months’ treatment before he may stand trial.
But Nogay told the court Zuccaro doesn’t believe he is mentally ill and refuses to take medication for the psychological condition of which he’s been diagnosed.
Wilson urged the attorneys to expedite Zuccaro’s treatment through the William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital, a state psychiatric facility and to set a reasonable timeline for its completion.
He set a June 3 status hearing for the case.
The judge also heard from attorney Edward Gillison, who attempted to submit a plea agreement for Michael S. Walnoha Jr., 44, of RD 2, Wellsburg.
Walnoha has been charged with threatening to commit a terroristic act and harassment for threatening to kill the employee of a Wheeling pharmacy who shot and killed his brother, Kevin Lee Walnoha.
West Virginia State Police reported an employee of the Elm Grove Pharmacy shot and killed Kevin Walnoha after he jumped over the counter, demanding pills and pointing a handgun at another employee on May 25, 2012.
Barki said the terroristic threat is not traditional in the sense that it arose from Walnoha allegedly stating he would kill the pharmacy employee in text messages sent to someone Walnoha knew.
The prosecutor said though Walnoha didn’t make threats directly to the pharmacy employee, the recipient of his texts was concerned he would carry them out.
Wilson refused to accept the plea agreement, which called for the terroristic threats charge to be dropped and Waloha to serve six months’ probation for harassment.
The judge said the sentence wasn’t appropriate because the victim “will remember that threat for the rest of their lives.”
“I do not find it’s in the best interests of the citizens of Brooke County,” Wilson added.
Barki said he didn’t have detailed knowledge of the plea agreement, which was prepared by Gillison and an assistant Brooke County proseuctor who wasn’t present and couldn’t be reached for comment.
An April 21 status hearing was set for the case.
Also on Tuesday, plea agreements were approved for the following:
James Carr, 42, of Follansbee, who pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to serve five years concurrent with a sentence he’s serving for a robbery charge in Hancock County.
Stephen M. Haight, 34, of Toronto, who pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, Xanax, with intent to deliver. He was sentenced to three years’ probation, during which he must undergo counseling for drug abuse.
Andre Hamlin, 32, of Steubenville, who pleaded guilty to delivering heroin and was sentenced to six years’ probation.
Christopher Robertson, 24, of Follansbee, who pleaded guilty to delivering a controlled substance, oxycodone, and was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Both Hamlin and Roberton will be required to be evaluated for drug addiction and undergo treatment if needed.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)