September term of Mon County grand jury returns 121 indictments

MORGANTOWN — A man who police say left the scene after he struck a bicyclist who later died and a 67-year-old man who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman more than 20 years ago are among those indicted by the September term of the Monongalia County grand jury.

The grand jury returned 121 indictments Friday. The previous term of the grand jury, in May, indicted 112 people. Those indicted will enter pleas at arraignment hearings in the Monongalia County Circuit Court later this month.

Ladon Garret, 39, was indicted for leaving the scene of an accident causing death, known as “Erin’s Law.”

Erin’s Law requires a driver who hits a person to stop and render aid. If convicted, he faces one to five years in a state prison or a fine of not more than $5,000 and one to five years in prison.

Garrett is accused of leaving the scene after striking Divanté Coles with his car.

Coles, 20, was biking home from his job at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, on Earl L. Core Road, when he was hit about 11:15 p.m. July 6. He died of his injuries just before 6 a.m. the next morning.

Garrett hired a lawyer, Joseph Spano, before turning himself into police.

At a preliminary hearing in Monongalia County Magistrate Court, B. Forsythe, a Morgantown Police detective, testified that Spano contacted him several days after the July 6 collision, told him he was aware of the case and that he was representing Garrett. Spano told him the vehicle involved was in the Harrison County community of Saltwell.

Forsythe said the vehicle, a black Chrysler 300, had front-end damage consistent with witness reports and that blood was collected from the windshield and sent to a lab for DNA testing. He said the damage to the driver’s side of the windshield was “substantial.”

The detective recalled speaking with Garrett’s parole officer in Maryland, who told him Garrett call-ed the day after the crash and said he hit a deer and could not report as scheduled. Later, Garrett said he thought he hit a person and had to deal with it in West Virginia.

Raymond Wise, 67, was indicted on second-degree sexual assault.

Second-degree sexual assault is punishable by 10-25 years in prison and fine of $1,000-10,000.

According to a criminal complaint, the female victim was collecting cans on Chestnut Street on July 2, 1995, when she was approached by a man who told her she could find cans in the city parking garage at the corner of University Avenue and Walnut Street.

When she went to the garage, the man grabbed her from behind and sexually assaulted her.

The case went cold, but all evidence was maintained. In 2005, new DNA extraction techniques were used by the West Virginia State Police crime lab to retrieve DNA from the evidence.

At the time there was no match in convicted offender and casework databases. But in 2017, a match was found during a search of the FBI’s National DNA Index Systems.

The match led police to Wise, whose DNA had been entered into the system in Wisconsin. According to online court records, Wise pleaded guilty to fourth-degree sexual assault in 2017 in La Crosse, Wis.

Tweet Will Dean @WillDean_DP; wdean@domininionpost.com

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