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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of West Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Martinsburg Federal Grand Jury indicts four in kidnapping and murder case

MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – Four Maryland residents are facing charges involving kidnapping and murder, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

The 9-count indictment involves a kidnapping and murder, as well as the murder of two witnesses. Those indicted are:

•    Monroe Merrell, 23, of Westminster, Maryland
•    David Ray Sanford, Jr., 26, of Westminster, Maryland
•    John Westley Black, III, 23, of Westminster, Maryland
•    Jeffrey Craig Smith, Jr., 23, of Taneytown, Maryland

“This is one of the most heinous crimes I’ve seen, where three people lost their lives for what appears to have begun as a $40 debt. These crimes will be aggressively prosecuted.  We owe that to the families of the victims and the citizens who count on us to do so.  I want to thank the prosecutors in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties, the Carroll County Maryland States Attorney’s office, the multiple local and federal law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation and my office’s prosecution team who tirelessly worked to bring the indictment before the federal grand jury.  I am confident that this exceptional group effort will result in a just conclusion of this tragic case,” said Powell. 

Merrell, Sanford, and Black are each facing one count of “Aiding and Abetting Kidnapping Resulting in Death,” one count of “Conspiracy to Commit Kidnapping,” and one count of “Aiding and Abetting Corrupt Destruction of Object” involving the kidnapping and murder of J.R. in March 2020 in Jefferson County. Smith is charged with one count of “Accessory After the Fact” for allegedly assisting Merrell and Sanford, after the kidnapping and murder occurred. 

Merrell, Sanford, and Smith are each facing one count of “Conspiracy to Commit Tampering with a Witness Causing Death” and two counts of “Aiding and Abetting Tampering with a Witness Causing Death” involving the murders of D.T. and H.G. who were witnesses of crimes against J.R. The murders occurred in April 2020 in Berkeley County. 

Merrell and Sanford are also each facing one count of “Aiding and Abetting Intimidation of a Witness by Threats.” Merrell is facing one count of “Solicitation to Commit a Crime of Violence.” 

“These indictments demonstrate the continuing commitment of federal, state and local law enforcement officials to work together to combat violent crime in the Martinsburg area,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “The deaths of three people were a tragic occurrence, and I’m glad the collaborative effort put forth by all agencies has resulted in these charges. The kidnapping and murder allegations in this complaint reveal an indifference to human life that will not be tolerated.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberley D. Crockett and Jeffrey A. Finucane are prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Berkeley and Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorneys’ Offices. investigated.

An indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Updated November 17, 2020