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Parkersburg process server, GOP chief clash at door

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — An attempt to serve a subpoena in the hearing to determine if the mayor can remain in office led to a confrontation over the weekend.

Wood County Republican Party Chairman Rob Cornelius, who filed the petition that triggered the June 4-5 hearing regarding Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell, armed himself with a baseball bat when a process server presented the subpoena at his home.

An order outlining a teleconference held in the case Monday refers to a “matter of concern … where the Respondent’s process server attempted to serve a subpoena upon the petitioner at his home and was threatened by the Petitioner with a baseball bat; the Petitioner contended that the process server tried to enter his home without consent.”

Cornelius said the incident occurred on Saturday morning.

“They sent a woman to my door who tried to open the door to my house,” he said.

Cornelius said he believes it was the second attempt to serve the subpoena last week. The first occurred on May 12.

“They beat on my door at 10:30 at night,” he said.

Cornelius did not answer then.

Private investigator Debbie Totten-Rectenwald, with Advanced Investigations in Jackson County, said she did attempt to serve the subpoena on Cornelius on May 12, following a Parkersburg City Council meeting during which she served three others. She served a fourth at a different location before heading to Cornelius’ home on Willowbrook.

Totten-Rectenwald said she returned on Saturday morning and knocked around 9:40 a.m. When there was no answer, she said, she left and returned at approximately 10:30 a.m..

Cornelius said he answered a knock Saturday morning, around 9 a.m., and found a woman he did not know standing at the screen door. Cornelius said he shut the door and grabbed a baseball bat.

“I keep a bat by my door for defense,” he said.

When he opened the door again, Cornelius said, the woman had opened the screen door and was reaching into his house, a piece of paper in her hand.

“She had her arm inside the house,” he said.

Cornelius said he considered the late hour of the first attempt and the incident Saturday evidence of aggressive behavior.

“I don’t need to be aggressively served,” he said. “Don’t need to be threatened at my home.”

Totten-Rectenwald said when Cornelius opened the door the first time, she asked if he was Rob Cornelius and he said yes.

“I said, ‘I have a subpoena for you,’ and then he slammed the door in my face,” she said.

Totten-Rectenwald said she knocked again.

“He opened the door back up, holding a ball bat in his left hand,” she said. “He screamed, ‘Give it (the subpoena) to me.'”

Totten-Rectenwald said that was when she opened the screen door.

“I did open that to hand him the subpoena,” she said.

“I felt threatened at this point because he was holding a ball bat,” she said. “I told him, ‘You’re crazy,’ and then I left the residence.”

Totten-Rectenwald said she’s worked as a private investigator for two years and this is the first time she’s been threatened while serving a subpoena. She added she was more used to threatening behavior during her 25-year career with the West Virginia State Police.

“To me, he was acting irrational,” Totten-Rectenwald said.

Neither Cornelius nor Totten-Rectenwald reported the incident to law enforcement.

According to the order, the parties agreed to allow subpoenas to be served on Cornelius via email.

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