WV Press InSight Videos

New W.Va. law gives killers chance of parole

 

Charleston Daily Mail file photo  John Moss Jr. is shown during his 1984 trial in Kanawha Circuit Court. He confessed to the murder of his neighbor, Vanessa Reggettz, and two children.
Charleston Daily Mail file photo
John Moss Jr. is shown during his 1984 trial in Kanawha Circuit Court. He confessed to the murder of his neighbor, Vanessa Reggettz, and two children.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The pictures still haunt Bill Forbes to this day.

Forbes, the former Kanawha County prosecutor who now owns the Forbes Law Office, oversaw the prosecution of John Moss Jr., who strangled Vanessa Reggettz and her two children on Dec. 13, 1979.

The bodies were found in the family’s St. Albans home. Four-year-old Bernadette was found in a bathtub full of water. Paul Eric, 7, was found hanging from a door facing the family’s Christmas tree.

“Looking back 40 years in my career, he might have been the baddest guy I dealt with,” Forbes said of Moss, who is now 52 and facing a parole hearing because of a new state law.

“I’ve been to a lot of autopsies as a prosecutor. Some things are fairly horrible. The Moss pictures haunt me the worst,” Forbes said. “It was a Christmas setting with the mother killed, one of the kids hung by the doorknob, Christmas packages were opened. Maybe it was the juxtaposition of the pictures.”

The new law, House Bill 4210, prohibits a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for people convicted of crimes committed when they were juveniles. Instead, they will have the right to a parole hearing after 15 years, said Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the department that oversees the parole board.

Messina said this also applies to juveniles who received consecutive sentences adding up to more than 15 years. Moss is serving three consecutive life sentences.

“Notwithstanding any new provision of law to the contrary, life without parole will not be imposed on juveniles younger than 18 years of age when the crime was committed,” Messina said. “That’s what judges must follow going forward.”

The law was apparently spurred by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Miller v. Alabama, where justices decided the Eighth Amendment prevented mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile homicide offenders.

In West Virginia, the new law is being applied retroactively as well.

So far, the state Parole Board has identified seven inmates at Mount Olive Corrections Center for whom this law would apply. Two, including Moss, are from Kanawha County…

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter