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Press Release

Woman Sentenced to Prison for Straw Purchase of Firearm Used in Fatal Nicholas County Shooting

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Melanie Clodfelter, 41, of Summersville, was sentenced today to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for making a false statement in acquisition of a firearm. Clodfelter admitted to purchasing a semi-automatic firearm used to kill one Nicholas County deputy sheriff and seriously injure another in June 2022.

According to court documents and statements made in court, on November 17, 2021, Clodfelter bought a Radical Firearms, model RF-15, multi-caliber rifle in Nicholas County. Clodfelter admitted to lying on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Federal Firearms Transaction Record Form 4473, by falsely certifying that she was the buyer of the firearm when she knew she was purchasing it for Richie Holcomb.

Clodfelter gave Holcomb the firearm on the day of the purchase. Clodfelter admitted that Holcomb gave her the money to buy the firearm. Clodfelter further admitted that she knew Holcomb was prohibited from possessing a firearm because he had a prior felony conviction.

Federal law prohibits a person with a prior felony conviction from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Holcomb was prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a felony conviction for unlawful wounding in Webster County Circuit Court on July 30, 2014.

Clodfelter was prohibited from possessing a firearm because she was an unlawful user of methamphetamine. Prior to purchasing the firearm for Holcomb, Clodfelter knew that Holcomb was also an unlawful user of methamphetamine.

On June 3, 2022, law enforcement officers responded to a domestic disturbance in the Birch River area and encountered Holcomb and another individual. During the encounter, Holcomb fatally shot Nicholas County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Edward Baker III with the semi-automatic rifle purchased and provided by Clodfelter. Corporal Joshua Ellison was wounded in the exchange of gunfire. Holcomb was fatally shot.

Baker’s widow, Jamie D. Baker, addressed the court and described the impact of Clodfelter’s act on her life and the lives of his children, their family and the Nicholas County community. The court stated that Clodfelter’s “reckless act” led to the “loss of the life of a man of valor, courage and dedication.”

“It may have taken only a few seconds for Clodfelter to answer falsely on that ATF form, but the tragic consequences will last a lifetime,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “This case is why the statute was enacted. Some people may think that the straw purchase of a firearm is not a big deal, but when you have a dead deputy, a widow, children who will grow up without their father, and another wounded deputy, it’s a pretty significant crime.”

Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which assisted the Nicholas County Sheriff's Office and the West Virginia State Police in response to the shooting of the two deputies.

“The tragic death of Nicholas County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Edward Baker III, and the injury of another deputy, is another terrible example of what happens when guns are supplied to those who are prohibited from possessing them,” said Acting ATF Special Agent in Charge Robert Maynard of the Louisville Division. “ATF will continue to focus on those who drive violent crime, which includes those who commit violence using firearms and those that help them obtain firearms illegally. This case should serve as a strong warning to those involved in straw purchasing, there will be consequences to your actions.”  

Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorneys Steve Loew,  Negar M. Kordestani and Alex Hamner prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:22-cr-135.




Updated February 22, 2023

Firearms Offenses