CLARKSBURG — A 27-year-old Fairmont man has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder following an alleged drug-related shooting early Friday near downtown Clarksburg, law enforcement officials say.
Harrison County Prosecutor Joe Shaffer said authorities believe Sidney A. Muller, whose last known Harrison County address was in Bridgeport, gunned down Clarksburg residents Todd Russell Amos, 29, and Christopher Hart, 26, at Hart’s home in the 700 block of Locust Avenue around 4 a.m.
According to a criminal complaint filed by Clarksburg Police Detective Sgt. Jason Webber, Muller was at the house to collect approximately $10,000 in debt that Hart and Todd owed him from past drug deals.
After the initial shootings, authorities allege that Muller then killed two newspaper carriers, Fred and Freddy Swiger, a father-and-son team who had worked for The Exponent Telegram for 30 years.
Fred, 70, and Freddy, 47, were shot execution-style in the street in front of the residence, according to Shaffer.
Authorities say that Fred and Freddy Swiger were not involved in any drug transactions that may have taken place inside the dwelling.
“They were at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Shaffer said.
Hart was shot in the right side of his head by a 9mm Beretta handgun, and Amos was shot in the face on two different occasions, the complaint states.
Amos was pronounced dead at the scene, and Hart died while being transported to the hospital, officials say.
Police are still trying to determine how many people were inside the home when the shootings occurred, Shaffer said.
According to Shaffer, the house was known for having drug activity in the past.
However, Shaffer would not confirm whether the residence was actively being monitored by the Greater Harrison County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.
He said that information would have to come from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which oversees the agency.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment when reached Friday afternoon.
The house was not under surveillance by the Harrison County Street Crimes and Drug Unit, Shaffer said.
According to Shaffer, Hart was discovered injured by his mother, who entered her son’s home after hearing the gunshots.
Hart’s mother, who lives next door, initially did not see the bodies of Fred and Freddy Swiger in the street, Interim Clarksburg Police Chief Robert Hilliard said.
Hart’s mother also thought Amos was sleeping when she first entered the residence, Shaffer added.
She then discovered that her son was wounded.
“(Hart) was able to articulate to his mother who he believed the individual responsible for the shooting was,” Shaffer said.
Webber alleges Hart also told his mother that “he and Todd Amos had been shot by Sidney Muller for no reason.”
Muller, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, was stopped by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department in the White Hall area at 5:54 a.m., according to Shaffer.
Muller, a native of Texas, was taken into custody because he was driving on a suspended license, Shaffer said.
The complaint states that Muller later admitted to authorities that he shot all four victims.
Marion County Magistrate Cathy L. Reed-Vanata held an initial appearance for Muller around 5:30 p.m. Friday, after receiving the criminal complaints from Harrison Magistrate Mark Gorby’s office.
Webber and Clarksburg Detective P.D. Graeber, along with Fairmont Detective Officer Adrian Hayhurst, brought the defendant to the hearing. Muller was wearing a white jumpsuit, and had his hands shackled to a waist chain.
Muller confirmed for Reed-Vanata that he’d been living at 7003 Scenic View Drive in Fairmont, and said he understood that the possible penalty on each of the four murder counts was life imprisonment.
He also asked for a probable cause hearing after asking Reed-Vanata what most defendants choose. That court session will have to be held within 10 days by a Harrison County magistrate.
Reed-Vanata also told the defendant that bond would be a matter for a circuit judge, since this is a capital case.
Muller said he wanted court-appointed counsel, prompting a series of questions from Reed-Vanata about his background and finances.
Muller said he wasn’t working, but was a full-time student. He also said he had been divorced Thursday, but hadn’t yet received the decree. Muller told the magistrate he has two children, ages 4 and 2.
Additionally, he said he receives $1,752 in Veterans Affairs disability benefits each month, had $400-$500 cash on hand during his arrest, and has no money in checking or saving accounts. Muller also said no one owes him money.
The defendant said he has a 2012 Buick Verano costing $42,000 after taxes titled in his name, making a car payment of about $400 each month.
His girlfriend pays utilities, and he pays $464 in child support, Muller said.
The defendant also said he has a bill from WVU Healthcare for around $13,000.
For the foreseeable future, Clarksburg Deputy Police Chief James Chamberlain said his department will be sending out additional patrols to the Locust Avenue neighborhood to make people feel more safe.
“There is no immediate threat whatsoever at this point, but we just want to add those extra patrols to help ease some of the tension and some of the worries that may be in the area right now,” Chamberlain added.
The Exponent Telegram President Brian Jarvis said he was extremely saddened by what he called a “heinous and senseless act.”
“(Fred and Freddy) were extremely nice, loyal and cared very deeply about their customers,” he added. “Further, their customers cared very deeply about them from the calls already (Friday) morning. They built a connection with people that was unique and special in every regard.”
Assistant Managing Editor Matt Harvey contributed to this story.