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Two men charged in the death of 79-year-old inmate

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Two inmates at Southern Regional Jail are being charged with the murder of a 79-year-old man.

Lucas Wagnor, 28 and Isiah Mcbride, 27 allegedly attacked 79-year-old Douglas Cunningham who was in jail on a capias warrant.

Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield said the two men face a charge which goes beyond first-degree murder since it happened in a prison, it’s known as Homicide by Inmate.

“It’s a charge out of chapter 62 of the West Virginia code,” Hatfield said. “Essentially, it’s criminal activity as prescribed in that chapter that results in another inmates death.”

This means that it’s different from a traditional murder charge, because there is no option for a jury to give mercy, making it more severe than first-degree murder.

Multiple sources inside the jail told state police, who are handling the case, that Cunningham was in a wheelchair for a portion of his time at SRJ when he was attacked by the two men.

Cunningham was pronounced dead on October, 29, 2022 at Appalachian Regional Hospital, making him one of the 13 deaths reported out of SRJ last year.

The two men were formally charged last Friday, with the delay in charging them being due to Cunningham’s autopsy report taking several months to process.

Hatfield said they will face a trial like a normal case.

“First of all, the two men have a right to a preliminary hearing, those will be within in ten days because both are held without bond,” Hatfield said, explaining what’s the next step in the case. “Once a judicial officers passes upon that preliminary hearing issue, if probable cause is found or if they weigh preliminary hearings, then the case goes into a bound over status and waits for presentation to the grand jury.”

Hatfield said inmates who commit crimes in jail besides murder face another kind of penalty.

“There’s also a provision for basically any criminal activity committed at the jail by an inmate that doesn’t result in someone’s death, this can be anything from tampering with the fire alarms, jamming the doors so they won’t lock, destruction of property,” Hatfield said.

Wagnor and Mcbride could face an automatic life sentence without mercy if convicted.

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