Washington pleads to lesser charges in drug death

NEW CUMBERLAND – A Youngstown man accused of causing the death of a Newell woman more than two years ago has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and will spend at least a year in prison.

Jarell A. Washington, 24, was indicted by a Hancock County grand jury in September 2012 on one count each of first-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance in connection with the death of Kristen Renfro, 30.

The indictment said that Renfro died as a proximate result of Washington supplying her with heroin on March 7, 2011. She died in the early morning hours of the following day at an Abbey Court mobile home in Newell Heights, where she was found by her “boyfriend/husband” Brian Renfro, according to court documents.

An autopsy determined that Renfro’s death was the result of fatal concentrations of morphine and methadone in her blood. The autopsy also revealed the presence of codeine and the sedative alprazolam (Xanax) and pointed to “heroin use in the hours preceding death.”

Washington has been incarcerated at the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville since he was brought back to West Virginia in January to face the charges. Previously, he was serving time at Belmont Correctional Institution in St. Clairsville, Ohio, for drug charges originating in Columbiana County.

Washington, represented by attorneys Robert McCoid and Helen Brancazio, entered an agreement with the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office in which he pleaded guilty to delivery of a controlled substance, a felony, and a lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor, according to documents filed in Hancock County Circuit Court.

Washington will serve a year at the Moundsville facility for the misdemeanor and a mandatory minimum of another year on the drug charge because he is a repeat offender, court documents said.

The plea agreement stipulates that Washington submit to a debriefing with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department regarding the events leading to Renfro’s death. Washington also has agreed to give testimony to a grand jury if he is subpoenaed.

Washington’s trial before Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Martin Gaughan was scheduled to start on Thursday.

Hancock County Prosecutor Jim Davis could not be reached for comment.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)