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Unfolding crime in Tri-State in 2018

December 23, 2018
Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Michael Stuart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, speaks during a press conference Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at the Huntington Police Department.

IRONTON - One of the Tri-State’s most gruesome murder cases from 2017 had no resolution in 2018 as defense attorneys worked throughout the year to take the death penalty off the table.

Arron L. Lawson, of Ironton, was charged in a 13-count capital murder indictment in the fatal shootings of Donald McGuire, 50, and Tammie L. McGuire, 43, Tammie’s daughter, Stacey Holston, 24, and her son, Devin Holston, 8, at Holston’s residence in Pedro on the evening of Oct. 11. A fifth victim, Todd Holston, was stabbed but survived and was treated for his injuries.

The defendant is now expected to go to trial Jan. 31, 2019.

While a 2018 trial had been slated for the defendant, a heavy investigation workload by mitigation experts for the defendant delayed the case.

Developments in other notable cases in 2018:

Eric Conn recaptured, case finished: After escaping federal custody and being recaptured at a Pizza Hut in Honduras in December 2017, the prosecution of disgraced Kentucky disability attorney Eric Conn ended in 2018 with additional prison time for the escape.

Through his years-long scheme involving Huntington-based judges and a Kentucky doctor, Conn defrauded the government of more than $500 million in disability benefits.

He had pleaded guilty in 2017 to bribing doctors to falsify medical records for thousands of clients and then paying a judge to approve lifetime disability benefits in exchange for a 12-year prison sentence. He escaped after he pleaded guilty, but was recaptured within the year.

In September, U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves sentenced Conn to an additional 15 years for the escape.

Michael Vega’s long sentence: Michael Daniel Vega, 50, of Huntington, served less than a year after he was sentenced to West Virginia’s longest prison sentence in 2018 for sexually assaulting three young girls. Vega died earlier this month after complications from a medical episode.

He had been sentenced by Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell to serve 400 to 1,425 years in prison, plus an additional 50 years of supervised released after a jury found him guilty in 2017 of 40 counts of sexual abuse and assault.

Misty Chapman murder case wraps up: Misty Dawn Chapman, 31, was given a 10-year home confinement sentence by Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred E. Ferguson, in the death of Racheal Diane Chaney, who was found dead in February 2014 from an overdose. The case had been one of Cabell County’s longest pending murder cases.

Prosecutors had charged Chapman with murder after she was accused of helping Chaney inject an illegal controlled substance into her body. However, Chapman was allowed to plead guilty to drug delivery resulting in death, a statute enacted in 2017 to address overdose deaths in West Virginia.

Decrease in Huntington homicides: With a total of 19 criminal homicides reported in 2017, Huntington saw one of its most deadliest years in history. However, by Dec. 19, 2018, the number of 2018 criminal homicides in Huntington dropped to just eight.

Operation Saigon Sunset: Residents of Huntington were abruptly awakened April 17 to the sound of helicopters hovering over the city as about 200 local, state and federal law enforcement agents attempted to apprehend nearly 100 individuals with active warrants.

The main focus of Operation Saigon Sunset was 30 members of the Peterson Drug Trade Operation, a Detroit-to-Huntington drug pipeline believed to have been in operation for more than 15 years. The raids have led to the conviction of several individuals in both federal and state courts, including Willie “Chill” and Manget “Money” Peterson, the pipleline’s leaders.

The Corey Chapman case: Corey Seth Chapman, 27, was sentenced in Cabell Circuit Court in September to serve 40 years in prison after he admitted to second-degree murder in the 2016 strangulation death of young mother Kayla Adkins in Branchland. Adkins’ body was found in a trough behind an abandoned barn on Hickory Ridge Road near Salt Rock. Prior to Chapman’s plea, Adkins’ father Gregory Allen Adkins, 63, of Branchland, West Virginia, was charged with six counts of wanton endangerment after he was accused of firing several shots in the home of Chapman’s family and at an attorney’s vehicle. His charges are currently pending.

Anthony Adkins convicted: Anthony Scott Adkins, 32, of Huntington, was sentenced to life without mercy in August after he was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2017 beating death of Douglas E. Daniels, 39, also of Huntington. Daniels had been found May 4, 2017, deceased and badly beaten on the west bank of the Guyandotte River, behind the floodwall and near the intersection of 31st Street and 5th Avenue.

Adkins said his half-brother, Joey Vernetter, had been the perpetrator in the attack. Vernetter was seen running from the scene before jumping into the Guyandotte River shortly after the attack. His body was later recovered along the riverbanks of the Ohio River.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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