Cops and Courts

Murder trial continues in Mon County

Testimony continued Thursday in the trial of Cleotis Cortez-Paul Eppes, Jr, 49, who faces charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy. 

Victim Matthew Moore was found lying face-down in the middle of Round Bottom Road which runs behind Ashton Estates off of Smithtown Road the morning of May 7, 2022. He had a gunshot wound to the back of the head and another in his shoulder as well as scrapes on his back as if he had been run over. 

A cell phone found in Moore’s back pocket would be a key clue in the investigation and would lead investigators to the suspects. The phone was found to have belonged to Eppes and would provide detectives with a great deal of information through images, videos and messages. 

Detective Sgt. Stephen Currie with the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department began his testimony with details on the investigation and how the detectives ultimately found the suspects Eppes and Arlo Romano. His testimony will continue Friday morning. 

Throughout the trial, jurors have heard from multiple witnesses called by Monongalia County Prosecutor Gabrielle “Gabe” Mucciola and Assistant Prosecutor Brandon Benchoff, who have slowly revealed a timeline of events leading up to, during and after the murder of Moore, whom they believe owed Eppes a large amount of money. 

The first day of testimony was capped by the account of events according to the co-defendant in the case Romano, who, prior to the trial, accepted a plea agreement and agreed to enter a guilty plea to a lesser charge of second-degree murder with the kidnapping and conspiracy charges dropped. 

Romano did not deny his presence during Moore’s murder and said it was his gun Eppes used to shoot Moore. 

On Thursday, Eppes’ former cellmate told the story he claims Eppes told him 50-60 times during their week together in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) in an effort to get help with the legal case and the murder coverup. 

The cellmate, who is still incarcerated and was in prison at the time of the killing, could therefore not have been present during the murder. Yet he knew a lot of very specific details about the case including exact times and specific details about the rental truck Eppes and Romano were driving that night. He said Eppes showed no remorse for the murder of Moore. 

Eppes sat quietly during the testimony, occasionally shaking his head in obvious disagreement with what his prior cellmate was saying.  

Many details of his story matched Romano’s, however in the cellmate’s version – allegedly Eppes’ version after going to jail – Romano was more involved in the murder than he indicated in his testimony the previous day. 

Prosecution is expected to rest following the completion of Currie’s testimony on Friday. 

Eppes’ attorney Christopher Wilson will then have the opportunity to call any witnesses for the defense. 

A verdict in the trial will likely not be delivered until early next week.