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Home confinement denied in kidnapping, murder case

December 18, 2018

HUNTINGTON - Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell denied a request for home confinement for a man convicted for his role in the Cabell County stabbing death of a man and beating of a kidnap victim late last year.

Robert Lee Nance, 39, will continue to serve his five- to 10-year sentence in prison after Farrell denied the motion in a hearing Monday afternoon. Nance entered Kennedy plea in November to malicious wounding and being an accessory after the fact for his participation in the death of Michael Sutphin and beating of alleged kidnapping victim Tara Gillespie in late December 2017.

Nance had originally been sentenced last month to three to 15 years in prison, though the defense stated Nance’s sentence had been given in error and the five-year minimum should have been applied.

A Kennedy plea allows a conviction without the defendant admitting guilt or explaining his or her role in a crime.

In petitioning for home confinement, the defense asked the judge to consider Nance’s character, adding that the only felonies on his record were those for which he is currently convicted. The prosecution, however, recommended the sentence remain the same.

The deceased body of Sutphin was found the first week of January in the back of a van crashed along Barker Ridge Road north of Milton. Police believe he had died about Dec. 29, about a week prior to his body being located, but no one had reported the crime for days until police located the wreckage.

Charged with his murder and concealment of a deceased human body is Brian Michael “Mikey” Bragg, 30, of Milton. Bragg is accused of stabbing Sutphin with a spear-like rod.

His co-defendants Nance, Cheryl D. Nance, 30, and Cynthia Renee Bumgarner, 45, were charged with kidnapping, malicious wounding and conspiracy as co-defendants. Robert Nance also was charged with concealment of a deceased human body and accessory after the fact.

In October, assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham extended plea offers to both Robert Nance and Bumgarner in the case, offering them pleas to accessory after the fact to murder and malicious wounding. Prosecution recommended the sentences be served at the same time in return for cooperation in the murder case against Bragg.

The case against the group started when a friend of the group came forward alleging she was asked to help dispose of Sutphin’s body. Police later found the wreckage along Barker Ridge Road. Bragg had allegedly attempted to speak to police prior to the wreckage being found, but was turned away after police suspected he was intoxicated.

Bragg allegedly stabbed Sutphin after he allegedly beat Bragg’s brother for attacking Gillispie, who was allegedly kidnapped after Sutphin’s death. Sutphin’s body was placed into a van, which was later taken to Barker Ridge Road, where the wreck was staged.

All defendants except for Cheryl Nance are jailed in West Virginia correctional facilities.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter at @BishopNash.

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