Earnest’s trial delayed until June

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By Tom Wilmoth

The murder trial of a Moneta man accused of killing his wife last December in Forest has been delayed until June.


    Wesley Brian Earnest, 38, has been charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, in connection with the Dec. 19, 2007, death of his estranged wife Jocelyn Earnest at her home.


    Earnest had been scheduled to go to trial on the charges in January, but that court appearance has been rescheduled as a motions hearing. Whether any issues will actually be taken up at that time is not yet known.


    Defense attorney Joey Sanzone indicated at his client’s preliminary hearing that he plans to challenge fingerprint evidence that prosecutors claim ties Wesley Earnest to a note found by the body of his wife. Forensic evidence continues to be processed in the case.


    Chief Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance has said he expects at some point for the defense to present a number of legal challenges prior to trial. Nance said the trial’s delay was anticipated. Nance said Earnest’s attorneys are continuing to conduct their own investigation, including requesting items from third parties. He said that can be a “time-consuming process.”


    At a hearing in Bedford County Circuit Court in May, Earnest was granted bond.


    During that hearing Earnest testified that though he was no longer employed with the Chesapeake School System, he felt he could find employment in this area if granted bond. He added that, if released on bond, he would be living at his Moneta residence at 1357 Clearwater Dr., which had served as his primary residence for the past four years.


    Nance argued at the hearing that Jocelyn Earnest’s death was not consistent with suicide and that fingerprint evidence on the note at the scene pointed to Wesley Earnest. He has also pointed out, both at the bond hearing and in evidence presented during the preliminary hearing, that the gun found at the scene belonged to Wesley Earnest and that Earnest’s whereabouts at the time of his wife’s death could not be corroborated.


    Jocelyn Earnest was found dead from a gunshot wound to her head at her home on Dec. 20 by Marcy Shepherd, a friend.


    Wesley Earnest was serving as an assistant principal at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake at the time of the death of his wife. Prosecutors submitted evidence during Earnest’s preliminary hearing claiming that his partial prints were on the note found at the scene. The defense claimed that Wesley Earnest had given the gun found at the scene to his wife for protection, but investigator Mike Mayhew with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office testified that he found the gun box for the gun at the home of the girlfriend of Wesley Earnest in Rustburg. Earnest was arrested at that home on Feb. 27.


    The Earnests were in the midst of divorce proceedings at the time of Jocelyn Earnest’s death.