Hearing continued in area murder case

WHEELING — An Ohio County magistrate continued the hearing of the man accused of murdering Wheeling Island resident Rayna Vaughan.

During a preliminary hearing Friday for Branden Ensminger, attorneys Zachary Stewart and John Carey asked Magistrate Charles Murphy for more time to assess the details of the case against him. The attorneys were appointed Monday, so they said they had only a few days to get acquainted with the case.

“As we know, this is is not a regular felony case,” said Stewart. “This is a murder case.”

Murphy agreed to continue the case to a later date. The state did not object. Ensminger’s hearing was reset for 10:30 a.m. June 6.

Ensminger, 27, was arrested March 23 on outstanding warrants from Weirton after being identified through forensic evidence collected on Vaughan’s body.

The woman had been his girlfriend at the time of her death, which authorities discovered March 21. Police said Vaughan, 21, had been dead for “some time” before her discovery while police were performing a welfare check of her home because someone heard a crying child. The medical examiner performing her autopsy ruled her death a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma to the head.

When interviewed by police the day of his arrest, Ensminger allegedly told police that he had last seen his girlfriend four days prior to her discovery at her apartment. While executing a search warrant, police reportedly found Ensminger was in possession of several blood-stained garments. The blood on them were identified as being Vaughan’s.

According to an affidavit in the criminal complaint, Ensmigner and a female friend allegedly went to Vaughan’s apartment after her death. The woman told police that she saw a woman lying motionless under a blanket on the floor. But when she asked Ensminger about the woman, he allegedly told her she was sleeping.

Police also found a Facebook conversation between Ensminger and Vaughan. Ensminger allegedly wrote, “Best eat your Wheaties, your gone [sic] be feeling it later on,” in his message to Vaughan as she was driving back to the apartment. Ensminger allegedly had been there watching her child at the time. These messages were sent the afternoon of March 16, police said.

Ensminger remains at the Northern Regional Jail on murder charges.