MILL CREEK, W.Va. — A West Virginia state police trooper trying to arrest an Elkins man wound up in a fight for his life.
Trooper First Class J.J. Cornelius attempted to take into custody Nathaniel Wegman, 27, who was wanted on an outstanding warrant for burglary in Indiana. After Wegman fled on foot, Cornelius caught up to him when he jumped into Mill Creek.
“There was a struggle that ensued and caused the trooper to fall and hit his head,” said West Virginia state police spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous. “When he did, Mr. Wegman attempted to choke him, drown him, and to murder him right there.”
As his head was being held underwater by his throat Cornelius was unable to reach his gun, which was pinned under his body. Instead he grabbed his knife and used it to thwart the attack.
“He was able to stab him a couple of times in the abdomen area and the chin,” Baylous said. “It caused some pretty significant wounds.”
Wounded and bleeding, Wegman left the area in a vehicle driven by Laura Lynn, 32, of Mooresville, Ind. A bystander who wasn’t involved in the incident came to help Cornelius.
“It’s my understanding he had either lost conciousness at one point or was about to lose conciousness,” said Baylous. “Had it not been for this person who came and helped him, he very likely could have drowned.”
Troopers tracked down Lynn’s car on a rural road near Huttonsville, a few miles from the original scene. She was arrested and charged with attempted murder and accessory after the fact.
Wegman fled deeper into the woods and was found soon by troopers. Placed on a helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown for treatment of serious stab wounds, he was expected to recover and will be charged with attempted murder.
Cornelius is also expected to make a full recovery.
“He’s doing rather well, all things considered. We’re very, very fortunate that today we’re not planning a funeral,” Baylous said. “We train our troopers to always be on alert and with the mentality to not give up in a situation. That’s exactly what happened here. He had that warrior mentality to survive.”