WESTON, W.Va. — Charges were dismissed Friday against three men arrested in September for the 1999 murders of two Lewis County women, but those charges could be filed again.

Harrison County Special Magistrate Tammy Marple dismissed the charges against Joseph Metz, 39, of Hornor, David Hughes, 58, of Ohio, and Charles Freeman, 51, of Ohio, without prejudice at the request of Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Smith.

“Without prejudice” allows for refiling.

Smith reportedly made the request to avoid a potential conflict because the magistrate who issued the criminal complaints against Metz, Hughes and Freeman is a former law enforcement officer and was involved in the initial investigation when the two victims went missing 14 years ago.

The two women were Maxine Stalnaker, 69, and Mary Friend, 46, of Jane Lew.

All three defendants had been charged with two counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery.

Investigators had alleged Hughes, the former owner of Wilderness Plantation in Jane Lew, ordered Metz and Freeman to kill Stalnaker and Friend because he believed they had a journal full of information about illegal criminal transactions involving the men and the Wilderness Plantation.

Hughes, investigators claimed, was worried the women would turn over the information to law enforcement officers.

On Friday, there was no word on when Smith would move to refile the charges.

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  • Josh

    I did grow up in Lewis County as well and this is the way things always go in Lewis County

  • MIKE

    There is no excuse for this to happen. Someone needs to be held accountable for this error. I grew up in Lewis Co., so this screw up doesn't really surprise me at all.