PRINCETON — There’s a potentially important piece of evidence currently unavailable in a Mercer County Mother’s Day homicide.
Thomas Michael Shine, 21, of Princeton, is charged with second-degree murder, wanton endangerment and brandishing in the shooting death of 18-year-old Bailey Dickerson. The shooting occurred after a verbal altercation at the intersection of Old Pisgah Road and Toni Lane near Princeton on Mother’s Day.
The case is currently set for trial on Sept. 11, but a West Virginia State Police analysis of cell phone records from the suspect’s phone has yet to be returned, according to representatives from both the state and defense. Given that witnesses previously told investigators the verbal argument that led to the shooting began with text messages, that evidence could be crucial to both sides of the case.
But, neither Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Adam Wolfe, nor defense counsel Joseph Harvey had any record that the cell phone had been submitted to the State Police Crime Lab in South Charleston.
First, Circuit Judge Derek Swope asked if any other law enforcement agency could examine and analyze the phone. But, the state’s representatives indicated they believed it had been submitted to the state police, despite the fact that they did not have a submission report. They did locate one for the firearm believed to have been used in the fatal shooting, but not for the phone.
Swope then suggested the attorneys start working harder to track down the phone.
“Have you talked to the superintendent of the State Police? I don’t mean some lab rat. I mean the superintendent of the state police,” the judge said, his frustration showing.
He then advised the defense that they could “jump up and down and say, ‘I want my speedy trial,’” if it appeared the state had not been diligent in submitting evidence in the case; however, if the case were to be dismissed due to evidence complications such as the phone that was not tested, the judge said it would be dismissed without prejudice, meaning the state could simply turn around and send it back to the next term of the grand jury.
In that instance, all parties would likely be enduring the same process all over again, at some point in the future.
“I want to know when they sent it,” Swope said. “If they sent it within a week, they were diligent. If they sent it last week, they may have problems.”
The judge added that he wanted to resolve the case as quickly as possible, but no one could resolve it without the essential evidence.
He also said he didn’t want anyone to say that the courts were holding the case up unnecessarily.
“The day of reckoning is going to come for this case,” he said.