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Husband arrested in connection with Forest woman's death

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By Tom Wilmoth

The husband of a Forest woman who died as the result of a gunshot wound in December appeared in Bedford County General District Court this morning in connection with the murder of his wife.

After a lengthy investigation, Wesley Brian Earnest, 37, of Moneta was in court today for shooting his wife, Jocelyn Earnest, 38, of 1482 Pine Bluff Drive, Forest, at her home. He was being held without bond.

Earnest was in court for the charge of the use of a firearm in the commission of committing first-degree murder.

According to Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown Earnest was arrested and charged yesterday, Wednesday, Feb. 27, with first degree murder and the use of a firearm charge. If convicted he could receive up to life in prison on the murder charge and faces a mandatory three year sentence if convicted on the firearm charge.

Brown declined to release any details of the investigation and what led investigators to arrest Wesley Earnest. He denied reports that investigators from the Bedford County Sheriff's Office had spoken with a Norfolk-based television station about details of the case. "We did not say anything to the station in Norfolk," Brown said. "They don't know what they're talking about."

A Norfolk station, WAVY, was reporting that the scene was set up to look like a suicide and there was a typed suicide note.

Wesley Earnest was arrested yesterday, Feb. 27, at a residence in Rustburg. Brown said the arrest came as the result of the investigation and evaluation of the evidence that had been collected at the crime scene. He said initially investigators spent 16 hours a day or more on the case. "They continued to investigate right up until yesterday," Brown said.

He extended his sympathies to Jocelyn Earnest's family. "It's such a drain on the family," Brown said, adding that they were pleased with the arrest. "I'm sure they're relieved. They are pleased the results are as they are at this point."

Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Krantz said it wouldn't be fair to the accused or the victim to speak about the evidence prior to court proceedings. Earnest is expected to be in court early next week for an attorney advisement. He is also expected to have a bond hearing, though Krantz said in first-degree murder cases the legal presumption is against bond. A preliminary hearing could be heard as early as April in Bedford County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Krantz added that the victim witness coordinator with the Commonwealth's Attorney Office has been in contact with Jocelyn Earnest's family and will be preparing them for the court proceedings.

Jocelyn Earnest and her husband were in the midst of a contentious divorce. Her husband had most recently been serving as assistant principal at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake.

On Dec. 20 of last year, Bedford County 911 dispatchers received a call advising that Jocelyn Earnest was unresponsive at her 1482 Pine Bluff Drive residence in Forest. Bedford County Sheriff?s deputies responded and spoke with the caller at the scene. The caller stated that she was doing a well being check at the residence of a friend, because she could not reach her by telephone and she did not show up at work. The caller said when she entered the home she found her friend lying in the floor unresponsive.

When deputies entered the residence they found the deceased body of Jocelyn Earnest. The body was transported to the Chief Medical Examiner?s Office in Roanoke for an autopsy which later said that the woman died of a gun shot wound to her head.

Since that time the investigation into Jocelyn Earnest's death has been ongoing.

According to court records, Jocelyn Earnest filed divorce papers against her husband in June 2006. The couple had married Aug. 19, 1995, according to those papers.

In the court documents Jocelyn Earnest accused her husband of spending considerable amounts of time away from their home, and frequently "did not know where the defendant was."

She said her husband often stated he was staying at their Lake house in Moneta. The papers also stated that when he was at their Forest residence Wesley Earnest was "wooden, distant and uncommunicative."

Jocelyn Earnest also claimed in the court papers that her husband began spending time with another woman. During 2005, she stated that her husband started spending less time at home and claimed "to sleep and shower at the school where he was employed."

At that time he was working at Heritage High School.

She also accused Wesley Earnest of purchasing 10 acres of land in Rustburg to construct a house. The court papers filed in June 2006 accused her husband of committing adultery on numerous occasions, stating that he was commuting from his employment in Chesapeake to have the adulterous relationship at the couple's Lake home in Moneta, as well as other locations.

The court papers also contend that after Jocelyn and Wesley Earnest took a trip to the Smoky Mountains in April 2005 he "willfully deserted and abandoned" her, with the intent to terminate the marriage.

In answering the claim, Wesley Earnest denied the allegations of adultery. He, in turn, accused Jocelyn Earnest of taking acts that led to the demise of the relationship. He said she was the one spending less time at their home, which he claimed to be the Lake home in Moneta.

He also claimed that Jocelyn Earnest spent vacation time with her family in Martinsburg, W.Va., without him, and that in the summer of 2005 she vacationed in Canada with friends, without inviting him to travel with her. Wesley Earnest added in his counter-claim that his wife had encouraged him to have intimate relationships with other people.

In subsequent filings, divorce papers submitted on behalf of Jocelyn Earnest stated that she had visited with family at holidays without him because he had become a Jehovah's Witness and refused to celebrate holidays. The divorce papers also said she had refrained from intimate relations with Wesley Earnest after learning that he "had contracted a sexually transmitted disease and was having an adulteress affair."

The divorce papers also claim that on Oct. 19, 2006, Wesley Earnest entered their Pine Bluff Drive home while Jocelyn Earnest was at work "and removed all but one of his many guns."

After moving his employment from Lynchburg to Chesapeake, Wesley Earnest claimed in the divorce court filings that he still maintained the Lake home as his residence and rented rooms in Chesapeake to stay at while working.

Earnest had begun his career as a math teacher at Jefferson Forest High School, according to Ryan Edwards, public relations coordinator with the Bedford County School System.

On Thursday, Earnest was still listed as an assistant principal at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake. The site listed his responsibilities as "attendance, textbooks, parking and security."

According to Tom Cupitt, spokesman for the Chesapeake School System, Earnest is currently suspended without pay. He said Earnest's pay will be placed in an escrow account pending the outcome of the case. Earnest had been on leave from the the school for the past month, but Cupitt couldn't comment as to the nature of that. Earnest had worked with the Chesapeake School System for the past two and a half years and was at Great Bridge High School for the past year and a half.

The school system sent home a letter to the parents of the students at Great Bridge High School stating that Earnest had been charged with a serious crime.

The Great Bridge High School Web site said that Earnest had attended West Virginia University, Concord University, Lynchburg College and University of Virginia. His leisure activities included skydiving, boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, volleyball and basketball.

Earnest listed his favorite quote as" Every second counts"by Lance Armstrong. It stated he held skydiving records, was a former high school basketball, volleyball, football and softball coach and that he held a Class "A" Contractor's license.