Jury: No mercy for Huntington murderer

August 8, 2018

Anthony Scott Adkins, 32, reacts after learning a jury had recommended he be incarcerated without mercy Tuesday before Cabell Circuit Judge Gregory Howard.

HUNTINGTON — A tragic story of a convicted Huntington murderer losing his family members at a young age was not enough to outweigh a lengthy violent criminal record, a Cabell County jury determined Tuesday in returning a recommendation of no mercy for the killer.

Anthony Scott Adkins, 32, was found guilty of first-degree murder after standing trial two weeks ago in the beating death of Douglas E. Daniels, 39, also of Huntington. Daniels was found May 4, 2017, on the west bank of the Guyandotte River, behind the floodwall and near the intersection of 31st Street and 5th Avenue.

The man Adkins says was his half brother, Joey Vernetter, was seen running from the scene before jumping into the Guyandotte River and then drowning.

After listening to testimony from Adkins and his family, as well as family members of Daniels, a jury took about 15 minutes to discuss the case before returning a recommendation that he be given no mercy, meaning he will never get out of jail.

Defense attorney Kerry Nessel remains appalled with the conviction and said he plans to appeal.

“It’s a travesty,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for a while, and this is the biggest shock I’ve had in a while, both the conviction and sentence.”

As he testified Tuesday, Adkins said he started drinking after his mother and sister died in a car wreck when he was 11 years old. Soon after their deaths, his father was paralyzed due to a neck injury.

He said he had to drop out of school to take care of his father prior to his death, but assistant prosecutor Sharon Frazier pointed out that his father did not have custody of him at the time.

Much of the prosecution’s case surrounded his violent criminal history and protection orders taken against him. The history included at least five domestic violence petitions filed after he had threatened on several occasions to burn homes down or to kill and harm petitioners.

There were dozens of criminal charges he had pleaded guilty to, most of which were for violent crimes. He spent more than five years of his life in a state prison.

The most violent crime for which he was convicted was when he hit his son’s grandfather in the head with a brick, which caused severe damage in 2007.

Adkins said he didn’t remember pleading guilty to many of those charges. He said many of them were “forced plea deals” or he had not pleaded to the charges.

Frazier said a lot of his history had to do with threats against women and children. Adkins said it was not true, calling Cabell County a “woman’s county.”

“No. I’m not going to agree with that,” he said. “A woman can say anything, just like right now. Anybody can say anything in this county and it sticks.”

Adkins declared his innocence. He said he was remorseful that he was standing trial and was convicted, before correcting himself to add his remorse for his victim. He lost a best friend, too, that day, he said.

If he was offered mercy, Adkins said he would like to become a substance abuse counselor for those who struggle with sobriety, like he has.

Adkins’ conviction came July 27 after a week of testimony from eyewitnesses, forensic specialists and expert witnesses who pieced together what happened along the riverbank that day.

Prosecutors alleged Adkins assisted Vernetter in taking Daniels to the ground and brutally beating him with their fists and feet and eventually a rock found along the riverbank.

The defense argued Adkins didn’t punch or kick Daniels and

that he had only tried to break up the fight between Vernetter and Daniels.

Adkins’ being at the scene, shoving Daniels and not stopping the attack or seeking medical attention for him after he left the scene showed his malicious intent for Daniels to die and was enough alone to convict him, Frazier said.

Two eyewitnesses placed Adkins at the scene participating in the attack. Two women — Adkins’ girlfriend and her friend — had testified Adkins later arrived at a gas station covered in blood and said he admitted to the murder.

Although he admitted to striking Daniels at least once in a police interview more than five hours after he was captured, Adkins previously said he had been drunk at the time and didn’t give correct information. On Tuesday, he admitted to touching him.

He had actually tried to save Daniels, he testified, and knelt at his side while cradling his head in his hands to see if he was OK. As he was doing this, Vernetter ran toward him to kick as Adkins jumped out of the way.

Huntington Police Lt. Dave Castle, who leads the Huntington Police Forensics Unit, said in his nearly 30 years of service, he had never seen a head beaten to the degree as Daniels’ was.

Nessel said his appeal of the conviction and sentencing will focus on the testimony given by a state medical examiner, whom he believes changed his testimony to fit the prosecution’s case rather than following what he wrote in the report.

In the report, the examiner said the victim was beaten to death by someone “wielding a blunt object.” While the examiner testified that object could have been a hand or foot, Nessel believes it meant a rock or similar object that could be wielded. Had he known the testimony would have not matched the report, Nessel said he would have brought in an expert witness to add additional testimony in the trial.

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