Cops and Courts

No mercy for man convicted of murdering Matthew Moore

Two men have now been convicted of the May 2022 murder of Matthew Moore on Round Bottom Road in Monongalia County – and one of them will spend the rest of his life behind bars. 

The co-defendants, Arlo Romano, 44, of Morgantown and Cleotis Cortez-Paul Eppes Jr, 49, of the Detroit area, faced charges for first degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy.  

Romano chose to accept a plea agreement shortly before the trial began in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and the kidnapping and conspiracy charges were dropped. His testimony in the Eppes; trial was part of that agreement.  

Romano is scheduled to be sentenced in May. 

Eppes was found guilty on all counts by a jury in a seven-day trial that ran from March 5-13. The Honorable Paul W. Gwaltney presided over the trial.  

In West Virginia, murder and kidnapping charges carry a life sentence, but a jury can grant a chance for mercy in that sentence. 

Following the guilty verdict, jurors heard additional testimony from Eppes, who maintains his innocence, and those close to Moore to aid their decision on whether Eppes should be granted mercy, giving him a chance for parole after 15 years. 

“We know from everything learned in this trial that Arlo Romano was with Matthew Moore at the time of his death,” Defense Attorney Christopher Wilson told the jury during his closing argument in the mercy phase. “We know that everything learned in this trial that Arlo Romano will be eligible for parole.” 

Wilson went on to say that if granted mercy, Eppes would be 64 years old before that opportunity arises and even then, there is no guarantee parole would be granted then or ever granted beyond that. He asked the jury to give Eppes the same opportunity Romano will have for the same crime — to have the issue considered by the parole board. 

Assistant Prosecutor Brandon Benchoff then delivered closing remarks for the state, reminding the jury that Eppes was only in Morgantown to supply Moore with thousands of dollars of fentanyl and crack cocaine to sell in the area. 

“I don’t need to explain to you that these drugs are dangerous, that fentanyl kills people, because sadly in this day in age, that’s common knowledge in this country. These drugs kill people,” he said. “A decision is made to receive financial gain by risking the life of every single customer you sell to.” 

Benchoff argued that every time Eppes sold these drugs it “might as well, in and of itself, be a bullet loaded into a chamber,” because he knew what he was doing and knew it was risking lives.   

In his final statement, Wilson reminded the jury that Eppes was not on trial for bringing drugs into Morgantown, is not convicted of bringing drugs into Morgantown and is not being sentenced for bringing drugs into Morgantown. 

“Cleotis Eppes is going to be incarcerated,” Wilson said to the jury. “If any of you believe that’s going to stop drugs from coming into Morgantown, you’re mistaken – his place has already been taken by someone else.” 

After several hours of deliberation, the jury declined to allow a chance for mercy on both the murder and kidnapping charges. 

“I’m grateful that the jurors were able to provide justice for Matthew Moore, I know his loved ones certainly thank them for their time and work in this case,” said Monongalia County Prosecutor Gabrielle “Gabe” Mucciola, who argued the case alongside Benchoff. “This verdict is truly a testament to the thorough, detailed and technologically advanced investigation of Detective Steve Currie – continually grateful for the law enforcement officers in this county. 

“Certainly, Detective Currie’s investigation in this case relied heavily upon a cell phone found in the victim’s back pocket and through many, many, many search warrants he was able to track that precise location of that cell phone which led us to a suspect and ultimately a conviction in this case, so we are grateful for that level of investigation,” she said.