UPDATE | Convicted murderer sentenced to prison

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PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 10/17/19 @ 3:15 p.m.
A man convicted of murder for hitting and killing a man with his car will spend nearly the next four decades in prison.

Morgan Vandergriff, of Scott Depot, was given the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison Thursday. (Source: WSAZ)

Morgan Vandergriff, of Scott Depot, was given the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison Thursday. He was given credit for the 530 days he's already served.

Back in August, Vandergriff was convicted of second-degree murder after hitting and killing John Maynard, 38, with his car in May 2018. He originally faced a first-degree murder charge.

The incident happened near a stopped school bus on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road.

Investigators say Vandergriff hit Maynard after Maynard tried to get him to slow down for a stopped school bus.



UPDATE 8/16/19 @ 9:40 p.m.
A man who hit and killed another man last year near a stopped school bus was found guilty Friday night of second-degree murder by a jury in Putnam County.

Morgan Vandergriff, 39, of Scott Depot, has been on trial since Tuesday for hitting and killing John Maynard, 38, with his car in May 2018. He originally faced a first-degree murder charge.

It's a case that has received national attention.

Closing arguments wrapped up earlier Friday evening, and the jury deliberated for about three hours.

The incident happened in May 2018 on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road.

In the first part of closing arguments Friday, the prosecution took the jury through the accident scene with photos. It included presenting the importance of witness accounts and the lack of any black box data on steering wheel turns.

The defense then began its closing statement by showing photos from inside the school bus that show Vandergriff trying to help after the crash. Defense attorneys said the prosecution was trying to play to emotions with a pure accident and even contradicted its own witnesses.

The jury was unanimous on the second-degree murder verdict and was even asked by the defense to consider an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia said it was clearly a murder case.

"So sad, a young man just waiting for his daughter to get off a school bus got murdered by a car for no reason," Sorsaia said.

Vandergriff faces anywhere from 10 to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.



UPDATE 8/16/19 @ 12:23 p.m.
Both the defense and prosecution have finished presenting their cases in the murder trial for a suspect accused of running a man over with his vehicle near a stopped school bus in Putnam County.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff, 39, of Scott Depot, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of John Maynard.

The jury is expected to return to the courtroom at 2 p.m. Friday for closing arguments.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.



UPDATE 8/16/19 @ 12:11 p.m.
The prosecution rested on day four of a murder trial for a suspect accused of running a man over with his vehicle near a stopped school bus.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff, 39, of Scott Depot, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of John Maynard.

The incident happened in May 2018 on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road.

Witnesses say Maynard ran out to the edge of the driveway and yelled at Vandergriff to slow down for a stopped school bus. However, witnesses say they heard Vandergriff accelerate and then watched him run over Maynard. The prosecutor said the suspect never went back to check on the victim.

After prosecutors presented their case, the defense made a motion Friday for acquittal. Vandergriff's lawyers said the prosecutors only proved one of three requirements to prove premeditated murder. However, the judge denied that motion and the trial continued on.

The defense attorneys then called their first witness -- an accident reconstructionist. Dave Harris testified that, based on his calculations, Vandergriff did not have enough time to stop before hitting Maynard. The expert also said there was not enough distance between the suspect and the victim for the crash to be intentional.

Harris also testified that there were a number of distractions that could have further reduced Vandergriff's reaction time.

After giving the jury a break, prosecutors cross examined Harris.

We have a reporter inside the courtroom covering the trial.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

UPDATE 8/15/19 @ 11:45 p.m.
What began as a normal afternoon on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot quickly turned deadly last year.

"I know John was selling the 4-wheeler, I believe that Charlie was messing with some kind of paint or something he was working with, and Elly was sitting on the porch steps,” Jeremy Hicks, a bus driver and witness, said.

On Thursday, bus driver Hicks took the stand to testify and described what he saw on May 9, 2018. Investigators say John Maynard tried to get Morgan Vandergriff to slow down for a stopped school bus.

"I hollered out the window that he was an idiot and blew the horn at him,” Hicks said.

Despite testimony from specialists about black box data that shows the brakes were used, but Vandergriff continued to slow down and speed up, Hicks says Vandergriff never stopped.

"Really wasn’t sure if he was going to stop or not. I was hoping that he would. I’ve never had traffic coming out of there like that when I’ve been in there with the bus before so you never know what a car's going to do,” Hicks said.

As Vandergriff’s 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier passed Hick's bus, he said he did his best to stop him. Despite his efforts to slow him down, he watched the unthinkable as Maynard was hit by the car.

"It looked like it hit him just below the knee first and he flipped up in the air and his feet were over his head when his head hit the windshield and he carried him 20-30 feet I would guess and he slid off the car into the ditch. The car never stopped accelerating and went out of sight, and he never moved again,” Hicks testified.

The graphic testimony was just too hard to watch and listen to for some jurors.

"I believe I said, 'oh my God, Terry, he just hit that man,' ” Hicks said.

As day three of the trial comes to a close, Vandergriff's fate will soon rest in the hands of the jury.

The trial starts back up at 8:30 Friday morning.



UPDATE 8/15/19 @ 11:15 p.m.
On day three of a murder trial involving a man who was run over near a stopped school bus, the jury visited the crash site Thursday.

Experts who handled the black box data from the 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier Morgan Vandergriff was driving testified throughout the afternoon.

The incident happened in May 2018 on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road. John Maynard, 38, died from his injuries.

Ronald Thayer, an expert in black box data retrieval says that the data from Vandergriff’s car shows several non-deployment events, meaning airbags did not activate. Thayer said the crash was a low-speed impact. He says it could be consistent with a vehicle striking a lighter object like a person or a curb. There was a second non-deployment event that was not as severe. Thayer says it could have been striking a person then going off the pavement.

They also reviewed the braking data which shows that at four to five seconds before the impact there was a hard-braking event that caused the speed to drop from 54 to 42. The data also shows that from three to four seconds before there was a slight acceleration and two to three seconds before there was slightly more acceleration.

At one second before the impact, Thayer says there was some braking but he would need further reconstruction to conclude that.

Thayer also said there was an anomaly in this case -- the black box recorded 100 percent throttle, despite the speed of the car going up and down.

West Virginia State Police Cpl. William Donohoe, an expert accident reconstructionist, was also called to testify. He said he can't say whether Vandergriff swerved into Maynard. He says Maynard’s head hit the windshield first, but other body parts could have hit afterward.



UPDATE 8/13/19 @ 6:50 p.m.
Day two of a Putnam County murder trial wrapped up on Wednesday. Morgan Creed Vandergriff, 39, of Scott Depot, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of John Maynard.

The incident happened in May 2018 on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road.

Seven witnesses testified on Wednesday. Two witnesses said they saw the crash, the others saw the aftermath.

Witness Eleanor Edwards said Maynard was standing on the edge of the driveway when he yelled at Vandergriff to slow down for a stopped school bus. However, another witness, Patti Joseph, said she heard Vandergriff accelerate and then Joseph and Edwards watched him run over Maynard.

The prosecutor called it calculated and said the suspect never went back to check on the victim.

Witnesses said Maynard had a beer can in his had at the time of the crash.

"How certain are you that John had a beer can and not a beer bottle?" prosecutor Jennifer Karr asked. "One hundred percent," Edwards replied. This question is in reference to Vandergriff's story. He claims a beer bottle was thrown at him, causing him to lose control of the car.

Carl Hostler, defense attorney, also asked Edwards questions. His were brief. He asked if she knows where the beer can ended up. Eleanor said no.

The third witness to take the stand was bus driver James Sovel. He said when he saw the silver car come over the hill, it was traveling fast and he was worried about the kids he just dropped off.

Karr asked Sovel if the car looked out of control when he crossed the speed bump and neared the driveway where it hit Maynard. “Oh no, no way,” Sovel said.

Bus video revealed Sovel drove forward on the road and began taking photos of Vandergriff and his car. Vandergriff approached the bus, but Sovel told him to get back. Defense attorneys say that’s when Vandergriff tried to offer help.

Another witness, Brittany Gilbert, was near the scene at the time of the crash. She said she is friends with Vandergriff, and she spoke to him right after the accident.

Gilbert said Vandergriff immediately said, "He hit me with a beer can."

Neighbor, Quaid Pendleberry, also took the stand on Wednesday. He said Vandergriff’s car stopped in front of his house after the accident. He went outside to ask if Vandergriff was OK.

Vandergriff allegedly told him someone was riding on an ATV and threw a beer bottle at him, causing him to swerve. Vandergriff then said he hit the person on the ATV, and that person got off of the ATV and ran over the hill. Vandergriff recommended calling 911. This story does not match witness testimony from Tuesday. On Tuesday, witnesses said Maynard was standing when he was hit, and he did not move after his body hit the ground.

The first firefighter on scene, Nathan Bird, took the stand after Pendleberry. He said he went over to Maynard and rolled him over to check for any signs of life and to open his airways. He said it didn’t look hopeful that Maynard was still alive at that time.

Dr. Allen Mock from the medical examiner's office said, when they received Maynard's body, it was obvious he went through some sort of trauma. Dr. Mock said most of Maynard’s serious injuries were on the head, and his spine was dislocated. He called it an “internal decapitation.”

Dr. Mock’s report states Maynard was hit by a “recklessly operated vehicle” and the intent was unknown. Counsel asked whether or not the direction the vehicle was pointing when it hit Maynard could tell investigators if the car was braking or accelerating. From a medical standpoint, Dr. Mock said he could not say for sure what happened.

The trail continues at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. The jury will soon have to make a decision on whether or not the incident was an accident, or if Vandergriff hit Maynard on purpose.



UPDATE 8/13/19 @ 12:46 p.m.
It's day two of a murder trial in Putnam County where a man is accused of hitting another man with his vehicle near a stopped school bus.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff, 39, of Scott Depot, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of John Maynard.

The incident happened in May 2018 on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road.

Witnesses say Maynard ran out to the edge of the driveway and yelled at Vandergriff to slow down for a stopped school bus. However, witnesses say they heard Vandergriff accelerate and then watched him run over Maynard. The prosecutor called it calculated and said the suspect never went back to check on the victim.

Three witnesses testified Wednesday morning including neighbors and the bus driver. The lawyers are primarily arguing about whether the crash was intentional or the suspect lost control of his vehicle.

So far Wednesday, our reporter at the trial says the defense has focused on a speed bump that was in the road and the beer can that was in Maynard's hand.

Vandergriff claimed he lost control of his car after Maynard threw a beer can. A witness testified she never saw anything thrown, but she also could not remember where the beer can was after the accident. A second witness firmly stated she saw Vandergriff maintain control of the car the entire time.

One of the witnesses also said on the stand that she saw the car "fly" over a speed bump before hitting Maynard.

Additional witnesses are expected to testify Wednesday afternoon.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

UPDATE 8/13/19 @ 6:30 p.m.
Graphic testimony was heard Tuesday in the case of a man accused of hitting another man with his vehicle near a stopped school bus.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff, who is in his late 30s, of Scott Depot, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of John Maynard. The incident happened in May 2018 on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road.

Opening statements got away around 2:20 p.m. and started with Putnam County Prosecutor Jennifer Karr informing the jury about testimony they could expect to hear.

Karr said bus drivers say Vandergiff sped past the buses, and witnesses say Maynard ran out to the edge of the driveway and yelled at Vandergriff to slow down.

Karr said witnesses will testify that Vandergriff never slowed his car down. She said they heard him accelerate, and some saw Maynard flip over the car and hit his head on the windshield. Karr said the move was calculated and Vandergriff never went back to check on Maynard.

Vandergriff's attorney, Bryan Escue, also provided his opening statements. He said it was an accident, and he urged the jury to put their emotions aside when they see the evidence and hear witness testimony.

Escue said Vandergriff did walk toward Maynard to check on him after the crash, and he was braking, not accelerating, when he hit Maynard.

Witness Charles Edwards took the stand later in the afternoon. Maynard was at Edwards's house when he was hit by Vandergriff. Edwards said he saw the moment Maynard was hit, and Vandergriff never hit the brakes, even after the accident.

Karr showed graphic photos of John Maynard shortly after the accident. He was lying in Edwards's yard. Edwards described the photos, saying that's the way he saw Maynard after the accident.

Karr wrapped up questions for Edwards. Defense attorney Carl Hostler also questioned Edwards. He began by showing aerial photos of Edwards's home and apologizing for his loss.

Hostler asked many questions of clarification, and made sure Edwards saw the accident in its entirety. He then asked if he believed the act was intentional. Edwards replied yes.

Late in the afternoon, the judge dismissed the jurors and counsel. The trial will resume just before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.



UPDATE 8/13/19 @ 12:55 p.m.
A murder trial is underway in Putnam County for a man accused of hitting the victim with his vehicle near a stopped school bus.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff, who is in his late 30s, of Scott Depot, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of John Maynard.

Jury selection began just after 10 a.m. Tuesday. A dozen jurors will be chosen from the pool of 47 that showed up for jury duty. They may also choose two alternate jurors.

A grand jury indicted Vandergriff back in March. Investigators say he ran Maynard over after the victim waved at him to slow down for a school bus.

The incident happened in May of 2018 on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road.

Following jury selection, attorneys will give opening statements and witnesses may be called to the stand to testify. We're told a juvenile witness may testify about what happened.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

UPDATE 3/8/19 @ 10:15 p.m.
A man has been indicted by a grand jury on murder charges in the death of a man who was hit and killed last May in Scott Depot, the Putnam County prosecutor's office said Friday.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff, who is in his late 30s, of Scott Depot, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of John Maynard. The victim, who was 38, died after being hit on Ranch Lake Boulevard, which is off Rocky Step Road.

Investigators say Maynard tried to get Vandergiff to slow down for a stopped school bus, which had its red lights on and its stop sign out. Maynard was standing in a driveway at the side of the road when he was hit.

Witnesses described seeing Vandergriff accelerating just before Maynard was hit.



UPDATE 5/17/18 @ 12:57 p.m.
A murder case in Putnam County has been bound over to the grand jury.

A man is accused of hitting and killing another man who was standing along a road in Scott Depot.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff, 38, of Scott Depot, is charged with first-degree murder, deputies say.

The judge determined in a preliminary hearing Thursday that there is probable cause to move the case forward.

The incident happened about 3:45 p.m. May 9 on Ranch Lake Boulevard which is off Rocky Step Road.

Investigators say John Maynard, 38, tried to get Vandergiff to slow down for a stopped school bus which had its red lights on and stop sign out. Maynard was standing in a driveway at the side of the road when he was hit, according to the criminal complaint.

A Putnam County school bus driver and the man who owns the driveway the victim was standing in were called as witnesses.

"He flipped up in the air, his feet went up over his head, his head hit the windshield," bus driver and witness, Jeremy Hicks, said. "He rolled off the car into the ditch and I don't believe he ever moved again from the time he hit the ditch."

Both witnesses described seeing Vandergriff accelerating.

"He never let off the gas," neighbor Charles Edwards said. "He got about two, maybe three feet from my driveway. He swerved right, hit John. John went up in the air about ... I couldn't even say how far but he turned a complete somersault before he hit."



UPDATE 5/10/18 @ 6 p.m.
Family, friends and neighbors are remembering the man hit and killed while standing in a driveway in his Putnam County neighborhood.

The incident happened about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday on Ranch Lake Boulevard, off Rocky Step Road, when deputies say the victim, John Maynard, 38, tried to get Morgan Vandergiff to slow down for a stopped school bus which had its red lights on and stop sign out.

Maynard was standing in a driveway at the side of the road when he was hit, according to the criminal complaint.

Vandergriff has been charged with first-degree murder.

Flowers are now planted at the end of the driveway where Maynard was killed, honoring him.

His cousin, Holly Browning-Savage, says she has many childhood memories with Maynard, who was raised a few houses away.

"He came from very little and really had made a good life for himself his wife and his daughter," Browning-Savage said. "He worked hard live to good an honest life."

Browning-Savage said Maynard loved his daughter more than anything in the world.

"On her birthday he always put off fireworks just for her," Browning-Savage said.

She, along with many others, say it's no surprise that Maynard was trying to help protect the children getting off the bus. They say he was always looking out to help and protect the neighborhood and his family.

"Anytime you were greeted by John, it was with a huge smile," Browning-Savage said. "He was always smiling. A very caring, kind and loving man that has been taken from all of us way too early."

Friends say Maynard also loved four-wheeling. In fact, he drove a four-wheeler to his friend's house and was on it before he was hit.



UPDATE 5/9/18 @ 10 p.m.
A man who deputies say hit and killed a man standing along a road in Scott Depot faces a murder charge.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff, 38, of Scott Depot, is charged with first-degree murder, deputies say.

The incident happened about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday on Ranch Lake Boulevard, off Rocky Step Road, when deputies say the victim, identified as John Maynard, tried to get Vandergiff to slow down for a stopped school bus which had its red lights on and stop sign out.

Maynard, 38, was standing in a driveway at the side of the road when he was hit, according to the criminal complaint.

Vandergriff was driving a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier at a high rate of speed when the incident happened, according to the complaint. The car went off the right side of the road and struck Maynard.

Deputies say Vandergriff sped away from the scene.

10-year-old Tristan Cody had just gotten off his school bus with a couple other kids when he says he saw a car driving toward them going well over the 20 miles per hour speed limit.

"We almost got hit," Cody said. "We were like 6 feet away from the car, so I kind of pushed them off the side of the road."

The victim's next-door-neighbor didn't want to go on camera, but he told WSAZ the victim had come over to visit and was standing along the edge of his driveway.

The neighbor says the victim started waving at the oncoming speeding car to slow down, but instead of hitting the brakes, the neighbor says the driver went out of his way to hit the victim.

"I heard a big bang, and then there was smoke everywhere," Cody said.

Krista Womack's daughter had just gotten off the school bus minutes before the incident. She knew the man who was killed.

"He was looking out for our kids," Womack said. "He was looking out for our neighborhood trying to slow a driver down, and for somebody to be standing in a driveway and to be hit like that is unimaginable."

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 5/9/18
A man is in custody after Putnam County Sheriff's deputies say he hit and killed a man standing along the street.

It happened Wednesday afternoon on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot. That is off Rocky Step Road.

Sheriff Steve Deweese says they have arrested Morgan Vandergriff, 38, for the incident. His charges have not been released.

Deputies say a school bus was turning around in the area, with its lights on, when Vandergriff sped around it.

The victim was standing close to the road trying to get Vandergriff to slow down.

The 39-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. His name has not been released.





 
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