by Kate Shunney
Circuit Judge Debra McLaughlin put her court in recess this afternoon, Friday, October 1 after ruling that the murder, abuse and disposal case against Andy McCauley Jr. would, indeed, head to a jury for verdict some time next week.
McCauley’s defense attorney Andrew Arnold asked the judge to dismiss two of the three felony charges against McCauley on Friday afternoon after the state rested its case against their client. Arnold argued that the state had not provided sufficient evidence to prove that McCauley murdered or abused his girlfriend’s daughter, Riley Crossman. Crossman went missing on May 8, 2019 and her deceased body was found on May 16, 2019 down a steep wooded hillside off Tuscarora Pike in Berkeley County. Arnold told the judge that there is a lack of physical evidence and motive to prove the murder of Crossman. He also said McCauley did not qualify as a custodian or act in a parental role, therefore undermining the charge of death of a child by custodian by child abuse.
Judge McLaughlin rejected the argument, and said the court does believe there’s “sufficient evidence” for those charges to be presented to the jury.
“Determining the facts of this case is the role of the jury,” Judge McLaughlin said.
Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Dan James and Assistant Prosecutor Courtney Moore rested their case on Friday shortly after 3 p.m. after calling their last of 34 witnesses and presenting more than 240 evidence exhibits to the jury and the court.
Riley Crossman’s boyfriend at the time of her death, Hayden Lacey, was the final witness in the state’s case. He described their teen romance, and their habit of texting and video calling almost continuously throughout their day. It’s believed that the last message Crossman sent from her phone was to Lacey the night before she disappeared and her phone went out of service. Police never recovered her phone, but were able to trace messages and cell phone activity in the days and hours leading up to Crossman’s last known contact with others. None of that data showed Crossman anywhere other than her residence at the corner of Greenway Drive and U.S. 522 in Berkeley Springs in the early hours of May 8, 2019. Crossman never reported to classes at Berkeley Springs High School on May 8. She was not seen or heard from after. In a message to Lacey on May 7, Crossman said McCauley was in her bedroom and she was scared.
Throughout five days of state’s witnesses and testimony, the teen’s family and friends have gathered in the Morgan County courtroom to hear law enforcement officers, investigators, expert witnesses and individuals piece together the state’s case against McCauley. At times, as during the presentation of photos showing the recovery of Crossman’s deceased body outdoors from a tangled hillside, and photos from her autopsy, family members have removed themselves from the courtroom. Others stayed and were visibly affected by the harsh images of the teenager’s badly-decomposed body. At times, family members and friends were also moved by photos of a healthy, smiling Crossman as she was before her disappearance.
Friday’s case included testimony from expert forensic analyst David Miller and forensic supervisor Melissa Runyon of the West Virginia State Lab, in which they described selecting and testing samples of apparent blood stains from Crossman’s pillow, sheet and blanket, and from a Victoria’s Secret satin ribbon found on her bed by police. Forensic experts said test results showed those multiple stains were blood, sometimes mixed with saliva, with DNA all belonging to Crossman. The ribbon contained DNA traces from Crossman and at least two other male contributors. Only blood samples taken from the bathroom in the residence and from the master bedroom contained traces of McCauley’s DNA, said witnesses.
Testimony from multiple individuals and an FBI cell phone analyst outlined dozens of McCauley’s calls and texts over the days and hours prior to Crossman’s disappearance. That data eventually led McCauley, in interviews with Cpl. Fred Edwards of the West Virginia State Police, to admit he had been up and out in the streets of Berkeley Springs between roughly 1:30 and 4 a.m. on May 8 looking for and buying drugs.
Further testimony and extensive video surveillance evidence were presented to the jury, placing McCauley not on a Berkeley County job site, as he claimed, but driving along Route 9 back to Berkeley Springs on the morning of May 8, and then driving back roads over Sleepy Creek Mountain into southern Berkeley County. Jurors heard from several people that McCauley took off from his job site in a green Dodge work truck and did not return for somewhere around four hours on the day Crossman went missing. When he returned to his job site, the bed of that truck contained a large spill of drywall compound. A similar substance was later found at the site where Crossman’s body was recovered, and on her skin. Specialty roofing screws found in that work truck were also recovered from the roadway above where Crossman’s body was located.
Drug use by McCauley and several other witnesses has been a recurrent theme during trial testimony, and McCauley is heard telling investigators during several recordings that he used cocaine at his job site, had left his residence on May 8 in the early hours to find drugs and later came back to his residence to retrieve more drugs that day. Investigators, particularly Cpl. Edwards, are heard in interview recordings asking McCauley to explain his varying stories about his movements on May 8, most of which conflict with other testimony and video surveillance showing the route followed by McCauley’s green work truck that day.
McCauley’s legal team of Andrew Arnold and Daniel Kirkland will start to present their defense case on Monday, October 4 in Morgan County Circuit Court. Based on court discussions, officials expect the trial to continue through early next week. Following the defense case, both sides will present closing arguments before the jury begins their deliberations.