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Two indicted in plot against W.Va. lawmaker

Journal file photo Stephen Skinner
Journal file photo
Stephen Skinner

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A father and son accused of plotting to burn down the home of West Virginia Delegate Stephen Skinner in an alleged attempt to kill the legislator in retaliation for lawsuits filed against them were indicted Wednesday by a Berkeley County grand jury.

Darryl Edmond Palmer, 48, of Inwood, and Matthew Brian Palmer, 21, of Ranson, were each indicted on one count of solicitation to commit murder, one count of first-degree arson and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree arson.

The duo was originally charged last year in Jefferson County in connection with the alleged murder plot.

According to court records, the plot was allegedly hatched in retaliation for active lawsuits filed by Skinner against the defendants. Skinner, who is also an attorney, represented the consumers who filed the lawsuits against the accused.

The West Virginia State Police investigated the incident. State police were contacted May 14 by Assistant State Fire Marshal George Harms, who said he had information that two accused men had conspired to commit arson at Skinner’s home. Harms said he was investigating an arson that occurred in 2013 involving the same suspects and said he had reason to believe they may commit another arson, records show.

Police interviewed a witness, who said he was approached by Darryl Palmer to burn Skinner’s house down due to consumer lawsuits filed against him and his son.

The witness told police that Darryl Palmer allegedly stated he “wanted to kill the son a (expletive),” records show.

The accused also allegedly offered to pay the witness “good money” to burn Skinner’s house down. On May 16, state police obtained an additional statement from Robert A. Blair, an investigator for the office of the Insurance Commission about the incident.

A second witness provided a statement to police May 20 and said he received a phone call from Matthew Palmer, Darryl Palmer’s son, regarding burning a lawyer’s house down. Matthew Palmer allegedly said his father would pay $1,500 to $2,000 to burn Skinner’s house down. The man also allegedly told the witness his father would pay more if Skinner were inside, records show.

Harms also provided police with a signed statement. He alleged that Matthew Palmer made admissions to him and Deputy Michael St. Clair of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department on May 20. Harms alleged Matthew Palmer stated his father approached him to burn Skinner’s house down, damage his cars and perform other acts of vandalism.

As of Wednesday, both of the accused remain free on bond while awaiting future court proceedings.

– Staff writer Edward Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182.

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