Wilson's Army pal testifies against him
Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch
U.S. Army Pfc. Stephen Wilson enters the courtroom prior to opening arguments in the McCalla murder trial on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009, at the Wayne County Courthouse. Wilson is the second of two Army deserters charged with the death and robbery of the Rev. Mark McCalla.
DAVID E. MALLOY
WAYNE, WV -- An Army buddy from Huntington testified Wednesday that U.S. Army deserter Stephen Wilson admitted killing a Huntington minister at a Beech Fork shooting range last year.
Under questioning from Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Plymale, Bobby Riner of Huntington said that Wilson, 21, of Cincinnati, acted out how he shot the Rev. Mark McCalla in the head in the summer of 2008.
"(Wilson) said he fired the round" that killed McCalla, an avid outdoorsman and pastor at Highlawn Presbyterian Church in Huntington, Riner said. "He had no remorse," Riner said of Wilson.
Riner testified that he knew Wilson and another Army buddy, Daniel Smith, were absent without leave from Fort Drum in New York when they stayed at his mother's house in Huntington on several occasions in the summer of 2008. Smith was convicted of murder and robbery earlier this year in Wayne County Circuit Circuit and isn't eligible to see the parole board for 37 1/2 years.
Dressed in a red jail jumpsuit and manacled hand and foot, Smith refused to testify at Wilson's trial Wednesday afternoon.
Riner said he and Smith did a tour of duty in Iraq and the two became close. He said the two also smoked marijuana, took prescription medication and drank alcohol and once used cocaine together while at Fort Drum. Riner considered Smith like a brother and he said Smith twice talked him out of suicide when he was depressed.
He said a relative told Wilson and Smith about the gun range at the Beech Fork Wildlife Management Area last year.
Under cross examination from Steve Bragg, a court-appointed lawyer representing Wilson, Riner admitted that he initially lied to authorities about Smith. Riner also said Smith told him that he and Wilson killed someone at the gun range and that robbery was the motive.
The murder weapon was never recovered and several rifles owned by McCalla also were not found. However, Smith had a handgun belonging to McCalla when the pair were arrested at a Columbus bus station, according to testimony from a Wayne County sheriff's deputy.
Dr. James Kaplan, the state's chief medical examiner, testified that McCalla was shot in the back of the head behind his ear.
Dan Castle, a Huntington Police Department officer in the forensic investigations unit, was called to the murder scene. He said McCalla was sitting down at a table at the gun range when he was shot. The bullet entered a pair of ear protections McCalla was wearing. He said while several dozen spent shell casings were found at the scene, no rifles were found.
Riner's mother, Mary Finley of Huntington, testified that she let Wilson and Smith stay in her son's room. She said the two left Smith's vehicle at her home and walked out the back door and into the woods before authorities came looking for the two Army deserters last year.
Travis Williamson, a Wayne County sheriff's deputy and lead investigator in the case, said a Charleston bus agent called authorities to tell them that Wilson and Smith bought tickets to Colorado Springs, Colo.
Wayne Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt told jurors to report back to court at 9 a.m. Thursday. He dismissed one of the jurors for sleeping during a part of the testimony Wednesday afternoon. That leaves six men and seven women on the panel who could get the case Thursday.