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Judge rules porch interview admissible in attempted poisoning case

BUCKHANNON – 26th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Kurt Hall has ruled an interview that took place on a porch will be admissible at trial for a woman who has been indicted by an Upshur County Grand Jury for solicitation of murder and three additional felony charges.

Jaymie Wright was indicted in the January 2022 term of Upshur County Circuit Court for three counts of attempting to kill or injure by poison and one count of solicitation of murder, all felonies.

According to court records, Wright allegedly attempted to kill or injure the victim by placing various substances in his “food and/or beverages.” Wright allegedly attempted to administer aconite, a type of poisonous plant, on one occasion; “medication” on another occasion; and potassium on a third occasion.

The indictment also states that Wright “willingly and knowingly instigated or induced [a third party] to kill Zechariah Wright, the victim.”

At Thursday’s hearing, special prosecuting attorney Savannah Wilkins asked the court to determine the voluntariness of the statements Wright made during an interview on April 9, 2021, conducted by Wilmer Smithson with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Special Agent Steve Worthy with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Wilkins asked the court to allow Worthy and Smithson to testify at trial to discuss their interview with Wright and to find that Wright’s statements were given freely and voluntarily.

On Thursday, Smithson said the interview took place at Wright’s home on her porch in Buckhannon, where she was not under arrest and was not placed in handcuffs. Smithson said he and Worthy identified themselves and explained the reason for the interview. The interview was not recorded, but Smithson took handwritten notes.

Smithson testified that the first part of their conversation was about a firearm. During the interview, Wright allegedly said she removed the gun from her home because it was beside the bed she and her husband shared, and it was usually loaded. She said she wanted to get it out of the house because she was afraid her husband may use it and told Smithson that a friend removed the gun.

Smithson testified that Wright appeared to be aware of the allegations. Smithson said one of the statements she made during the interview was that her husband was saying she was trying to kill him, and she mentioned poison before the agents brought it up.

Later in the interview, Wright allegedly said she ordered a substance from Amazon for headaches and did not want her husband to know she had headaches. During that April 2021 interview, Smithson asked Wright if anyone witnessed her putting anything in her husband’s food or drink and she said “no.”

Smithson said Wright had told him that she had years of experience in the medical field and allegedly made a remark along the lines of “if I wanted him dead, he’d be dead.”

Wright allegedly described her relationship with her husband as a “domestic violence situation,” and said she had to lie to her friends to cover up bruises. She also said she felt her husband’s mother was causing him to make the allegations against her.

Smithson said the interview lasted about 40 minutes and Wright never asked to end the interview.

Wright’s attorney Tom Dyer objected to allowing Smithson or Worthy to testify at trial because his client may not have understood that she had the option to either not answer the questions or simply leave.

Judge Kurt Hall said the court would find it was clear Wright was not in custody or under arrest. He said Wright was on her own front porch and was free to leave at any time. Hall said the statements were made freely and would be made admissible at the trial, which is now scheduled to begin Aug. 16, with jury selection the day prior on Aug. 15 and a pre-trial hearing slated for 11 a.m. Aug. 4.

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