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Accused murderer offered plea deal


Accused murderer offered plea deal

January 5, 2012

By Edward Marshall - Journal Staff Writer (emarshall@journal-news.net) , journal-news.net

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BERKELEY SPRINGS - A 73-year-old Morgan County man accused of shooting his 13-year-old son in the head last June is prepared to accept the terms of a plea agreement that would dismiss a count of murder.

According to a Dec. 9, 2011, plea letter filed Wednesday with the court, William Allan Butler, of Fulton Road, is willing to plead guilty to one count of an indictment issued by a Morgan County grand jury last September charging him with child neglect resulting in death.

Under the terms of the agreement, Butler would be sentenced to the statutory of no less than three but no more than 15 years in prison. The state also would agree to dismiss the remaining count of murder.

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"This will confirm the substance of our recent telephone conversations regarding the above case. Please be advised that, in order to resolve the pending case against Mr. Butler, Mr. Butler is willing to plead guilty to Count II of the indictment, child neglect resulting in death and serve the statutory sentence ... ," a copy of the plea letter signed by Butler's attorney, Andrew Arnold, states.

The letter was sent to Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin, who is prosecuting the case.

"As you know, my client and I share the opinion that this is indeed a horrible tragedy and that this plea serves all of the purposes of sentencing including just punishment. I believe that the facts as presented to a jury would square neatly with the elements of Count II," the letter states.

Butler appeared in Morgan County Circuit Court Wednesday for the proposed plea to be presented with the court.

"My client further understands that he will need to waive his right to a speedy trial in order to allow for a presentence report to be prepared in this case and is prepared to do so at the January hearing," the plea letter states.

Butler, who currently remains incarcerated at Eastern Regional Jail, is tentatively scheduled to return to court March 5 for a plea and sentencing hearing.

The victim in the case, Andrew Arthur Butler, was fatally shot on June 18 in the backyard of their Morgan County home, during what his father claimed was target practice.

According to court records, following the shooting, Morgan County Sheriff's Deputy First Class C.H. Cobern was dispatched to the defendant's residence on Fulton Road for a report of a "signal 18," which is police code for murder.

When Cobern arrived at the scene, the officer observed the elder Butler sitting on the front porch. As soon as the officer arrived at the scene, it was clear that the 13-year-old victim was dead from a gunshot wound to the head, records show.

After the scene was secured, Cobern spoke with the elder Butler's 12-year-old daughter, who said she was inside the house on a computer when she heard a gunshot.

The girl knew that both the defendant and the victim were behind the house with weapons, and she told police she initially didn't think anything of the situation.

"About 10 seconds later she states she heard another shot, and looked outside to see her brother laying on the ground with blood coming from his head," records state.

Butler told police that his son had never handled a firearm and felt it was a good time for him to learn.

The man said he was standing about five feet in front of his son, his back turned, showing the teen where to shoot.

"The defendant stated that he heard a gunshot and just knew his son was shooting at him, so he turned and immediately shot his son in the head," records state.

He told police he couldn't remember which weapon he was using. Police at the scene found two different weapons beside the victim, a 9-mm semiautomatic handgun and .38-caliber revolver.

- Staff writer Edward Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182, or emarshall@journal-news.net

2012 Jan 5