PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Update: 8/12/2019 4:20 P.M.
Wood County Circuit Judge Robert Waters called the murder of Penni Jo Curtiss "one of the most violent and vicious killings in Wood County history".
Kenneth McCoy, Jr., and Jessica Roberts were sentenced in court Monday for the December, 2017 death of the Parkersburg woman at her Tygart Street home.
McCoy and Roberts, convicted in early June, were both sentenced to life in prison for a first-degree murder conviction.
While a jury after that verdict recommended mercy for Jessica Roberts, Judge Waters said he would recommend to the West Virginia Parole Board she serve a substantial period of time before parole is considered.
Members of Curtiss' family spoke before the sentencing. One is now taking care of Curtiss' granddaughter, whom Curtiss herself once looked after.
"She doesn't know what happened to her grandmother," said Curtiss' nephew, Randall Parsons. "She just knows she's in heaven. She cries all the time, 'I miss my maw, I miss my maw'"
"My life has changed," said Curtiss' daughter, Donna McCormick in a tearful statement. "I can't talk to her now; I can't even have a conversation with her. It just really messed me up mentally; it really did."
McCoy had been on parole for a previous felony out of Roane County at the time of Curtiss' death. That parole has been revoked, according to Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Pat Lefebure.
"(McCoy) will never get out of prison", Judge Waters said.
McCoy and Roberts were also sentenced Monday for convictions at their June trial on other charges;
Conspiracy to commit a criminal offense: 1-5 years in prison.
Grand Larceny: 1-10 years in prison.
Burglary: 1-10 years.
Aggravated Robbery: 20 years.
Those sentences are to be served consecutively. For Roberts, they also include time already served since her arrest in late 2017.
Both defendants have the right to appeal the verdict. McCoy's attorney indicated he will do so.
UPDATE: 8/12/19 10:48 A.M.
A man and woman convicted in the December 2017 death of a Parkersburg woman were sentenced to life in prison Monday in Wood County Circuit Court.
A jury in June found Jessica Roberts, 27, and Kenneth McCoy Jr., 35, guilty of killing Penni Jo Curtiss, whose body was found inside her home on Tygart Street. The jury recommended mercy for Roberts, but not for McCoy.
They were found guilty of first-degree murder, four counts of conspiracy to commit a criminal offense, felony murder, first-degree robbery, burglary and grand larceny.
We have a reporter in the courtroom and will have updates online and during our regular newscasts.
Update: 5/5/2019 5:10 P.M.
The decisions on mercy for Jessica Roberts, and no mercy for Kenneth McCoy, Jr. followed a morning of witnesses for the two defendants. All said the two suffered several forms of abuse, including sexual abuse, while growing up.
McCoy, who was described as an excellent student in school, said on the witness stand he was first sexually molested as a child.
"Did you get treatment for it?", Attorney John Oshoway asked.
McCoy responded: "No sir, I didn't tell nobody...because I was ashamed."
Roberts said her youth included abuse at the hands of an aunt who had worked in law enforcement, something her attorney has suggested explains some of her answers to questions by Parkersburg Police after her arrest.
"Do you feel the sexual and physical abuse you suffered has affected you throughout your life?", asked Attorney Courtney Ahlborn.
"Yes," replied Roberts.
Another aunt, one who raised Jessica as a child, said had she testified in the criminal phase, the jury's guilty verdicts might have been different.
"And I'm glad I got the opportunity to explain Jessica's level of functioning and her child-like behavior," Catherine Odom said after the jury's mercy verdicts.
But a representative for victim Penni Jo Curtiss's family says none of it explains her brutal killilng.
"They're both 100% guilty," family friend Joseph Wilson said of McCoy and Roberts. "They both should have gotten life, in my opinion."
They are scheduled to be sentenced August 12.
UPDATE: 6/5/19 Noon
A Wood County Circuit Court jury completed the mercy phase of the murder trial of Kenneth McCoy Jr. and Jessica Roberts late Wednesday morning, recommending no mercy for McCoy and mercy for Roberts.
Jurors convicted them on first-degree murder and other charges on Tuesday for the killing of Parkersburg resident Penni Jo Curtiss in December 2017.
The jury's decision on Wednesday means that when McCoy is sentenced he will life in prison with no chance for parole. Roberts will be be eligible to seek parole after serving 15 years.
We have a reporter in the courtroom and will have more details online and during WTAP News @ 5 and 6.
Update: 6/4/2019 7:52 P.M.
McCoy and Roberts were found guilty of first-degree murder, four counts of conspiracy to commit a criminal offense, felony murder, first-degree robbery, burglary and grand larceny.
The trial now proceeds to the mercy phase, where the jury will determine whether McCoy and Roberts will be eligible for parole in 15 years.
UPDATE: 6/4 19 5:25 P.M.
A jury in Wood County Circuit Court has found Kenneth McCoy Jr. and Jessica Roberts guilty on all counts in the death of Parkersburg resident Penni Jo Curtiss in December 2017.
The jury returned the verdict shortly after 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
We'll have the latest on WTAP News @ 6.
UPDATE: 6/4/19 4:40 P.M.
A jury in Wood County Circuit Court has begun deliberations in the murder trial of Kenneth McCoy and Jessica Roberts.
The deliberations began shortly after 3 p.m. after the jury heard closing statements from both the prosecution and defense attorneys.
McCoy and Curtis are facing first-degree murder charges in the death of Parkersburg resident Penni Jo Curtiss, who was killed inside her home on Tygart Street in December 2017. They were arrested a few days later by authorities in Illinois.
We have a reporter in the courtroom and will have updates online and during WTAP News @ 5 and 6 as more information becomes available.
Update 6/4/2019 11:30 A.M.
The last witness, called by the defense, was psychologist Eric Walls, who examined Jessica Roberts.
Walls said Roberts had what he called a "negative relationship" with co-defendant Kenneth McCoy, one involving both verbal and physical abuse.
He cited her upbringing, in which she was raised by step-grandparents, calling it one of instability and also citing physical, mental and sexual abuse.
Under extensive questioning by Prosecutor Pat Lefebure, Walls was asked whether he had reviewed both of the statements Roberts gave Parkersburg Police. Specifically, he asked about the second statement, in which Roberts said she had anger toward the daughter of alleged murder victim Penni Jo Curtiss. He said he had not.
The jury could get the case, to begin deliberations, by mid-afternoon..
UPDATE: 6/4/19 10:45 P.M.
Closing arguments are scheduled Tuesday afternoon in the murder trial of a man and woman accused of in the killing of a Parkersburg woman.
Defense attorneys for Kenneth McCoy Jr. and Jessica Roberts wrapped up their case Tuesday morning following four days of testimony from prosecution witnesses.
McCoy and Roberts, who did not testify, on are trial for the murder of Penni Jo Curtiss, who was killed in December 2017 at her home on Tygart Street in south Parkersburg.
Judge Robert Waters is presiding over the case in Wood County Circuit Court.
The prosecution rested its case early Monday afternoon, after presenting four days of witnesses and recorded interviews in the first-degree murder trial of Kenneth McCoy, Jr. and Jessica Roberts.
Before doing so, it played a second interview Parkersburg Police detectives conducted with Roberts in December, 2017. The latter interview took place after Roberts was returned to Parkersburg from Flora, Illinois, where McCoy and Roberts were arrested for the murder of Penn Jo Curtiss earlier that month.
In her December 27 statement-as well as in a phone call she made from jail while still in Illinois-Roberts continued to state McCoy forced her to cut Curtiss with a knife.
That, she say, after McCoy struck Curtiss with a hammer, and cut her throat.
"After he came out and hit her with a hammer-well, he missed her the first time, then, he hit her again, and actually made contact the second time-she fell,: Roberts told Parkersburg Detectives James Stalnaker and J.D. Hart. "He kept striking her in the head-I don't know how many times he had hit her. At a certain point, I turned around and didn't want to watch. By the time I turned back around, her throat's already cut, and I know I didn't make that big cut."
In the morning, the jury heard from two forensic experts who had examined evidence gathered at the scene, and from McCoy and Roberts.
While some objects were linked to the defendants-and the victim-results on others were found to show no match at all.
In their second interview, Roberts said she had $300 when she went to visit Curtiss: money she says she wanted to pay back to her.
She also claimed she intended to use it to buy food and other items.
Parts of Kenneth McCoy, Jr.'s story-in a recorded statement given to Parkersburg Police detectives shortly after his December, 2017 arrest for the murder of Penni Jo Curtiss-differed from what co-defendant Jessica Roberts told police in a separate statement.
While he says the two cared for each other, McCoy says he threatened Roberts because he thought she would betray him.
He and Roberts' statements agree, their original motive was not to kill Curtiss.
He added, however, they argued over whether Roberts should be involved in attacking Curtiss.
"I figured I'd just hit her in the head and knock her out, tie her up and put her in a closet," McCoy told police.
"Did you discuss that with Jessica?, asked a detective.
"By the time I get over there, I was so stressed out...I told (Jessica) she had to do that or I would kill her."
He later claimed Roberts had nothing to do with Curtiss' death.
While the two fled the area afterward, MdCoy, in his statement, said he thought was "a matter of time before I was caught".
And, at the end of the 2 1/2 hour recording, when asked if he had anything else to say, McCoy is heard to say, "I hope Penni's family forgives me one day."
The trial is expected to continue into the middle of next week.
A recorded statement by one of the two defendants in the death of a Parkersburg woman dominates testimony in their trial Thursday.
The three-and-a-half hour interview was conducted by Parkersburg Police with Roberts, after she and McCoy were arrested in Flora, Illinois.
Near the end of the interview, Roberts is asked by police detectives who should be punished for Penni Jo Curtiss' death on December 11, 2017.
She replies, both herself and McCoy.
Throughout the questioning, however, she maintained McCoy repeatedly threatened her with harm, if she did not take part in killing Curtiss.
"He pushed me on top of her and said, 'you're going to cut her throat'," Roberts is heard to say in the recorded interview. "I'm hesitating...I really did not want to. And he said, 'you're going to do it, or I'm going to hit you with a hammer, and I'm going to kill you.'"
Roberts also said it was out of fear of being harmed, that she didn't try to run away in the times after the killing, when she was temporarily separated from McCoy.
She says after Curtiss' death, the two fled the scene in Curtiss' fan, using the victim's checkbook wherever they could, to buy items including a machete and axes.
When asked why those items were needed, she said the couple expected to spend time in the woods.
A Flora police officer who testified Thursday afternoon said McCoy and Roberts were arrested after the van was spotted at a Walmart store in the Illinois community.
Officer Mark Weber said Roberts-who was just a few feet from McCoy at the time-told him she feared McCoy would kill her.
In opening statements Wednesday, Roberts' attorney, Courtney Ahlborn, argued that while police read Roberts her rights before the recorded interview, Roberts did not have legal representation during the questioning.
"Penni Curtiss is a woman who died senselessly, violently and brutally at the hands of Kenneth McCoy and Jessica Roberts," said Assistant Prosecutor Russ Skogstad, in opening statements in the trial of Kenneth McCoy and Jessica Roberts.
Roberts had lived with Curtiss and her daughter for a time at her Tygart Street home in late 2017. She went there on the morning of December 11 to pay money she owed Curtiss, but was turned away.
Prosecutors then say McCoy, with whom Roberts had had a relationship, plotted to kill Curtiss.
"The two of them went into her house, waited for her to come home," Skogstad told jurors. "When she did, Kenneth McCoy hit her on the head with a hammer, they slit her throat, and waited for her to die."
James Robinson, a neighbor with a surveillance camera setup, says video from his system showed McCoy trying to enter Curtiss' home.
"He went around on her back porch, then came back and looked around on my car port," Robinson said, "and started fiddling around with the window air conditioner."
Roberts' attorney says McCoy coerced and threatened Roberts to enter the home. Then, after McCoy struck Curtiss with a hammer, he told Roberts to smother her with a pillow.
"You'll hear in her statement that she told him no, that she didn't want to," said Attorney Courtney Ahlhborn. "He said, 'you do this, or you're next'."
The defendants' attorneys maintain their motive was robbery, not murder. Then, Curtiss showed up at her home while they were inside.
"It all goes horribly wrong, fueled by panic and drugs," argued John Oshoway, Kenneth McCoy's attorney. "I'm not suggesting that what happened should not have happened. What I'm suggesting is that it does not constitute first-degree murder."
But that is what the pair are charged with, in Curtiss' death.
UPDATE: 5/29/19 10:50 A.M.
Testimony has begun in the murder of trial of a man and woman accused of murder in the death of a woman in south Parkersburg in December 2017.
Roberta Ott, the mother of Penni Jo Curtiss, was the first witness to testify Wednesday morning in the trial of Kenneth McCoy Jr. and Jessica Roberts, who face first-degree murder charges in Curtiss' death.
Ott, who found Curtiss' body inside Curtiss' home on Tygart Street, began testifying after prosecutors and defense attorneys completed their opening arguments.
Prosecutors said a medical examiner's report showed that Curtiss had numerous head injuries and skull fractures.
The trial in Wood County Circuit Court began with jury selection on Tuesday and is expected to continue for several days.
Judge Robert Waters is presiding over the case.
Update: 5/28/2019 4:15 P.M.
Opening arguments and testimony are set for Wednesday morning in the trial of a man and a woman accused in the December, 2017 death of a south Parkersburg woman.
UPDATE: 5/28/19 12:40 P.M.
Jury selection began Tuesday morning in the murder trial of a man and woman accused in the December 2017 death of a Parkersburg woman.
Kenneth McCoy, Jr., and Jessica Roberts are going on trial in Wood County Circuit Court in the death of Penni Jo Curtiss, whose body was found in her home on Tygart Street.
A spokesman in Judge Robert Waters' office said jury selection is expected to continue throughout the day on Tuesday.
Authorities said the two killed Curtiss on Dec. 11, 2017, then stole her vehicle and drove to Flora, Illinois, where they were eventually found and arrested at a Wal-Mart. Curtiss had head trauma and cuts to her throat, authorities said.
McCoy and Roberts were indicted on several counts, including first-degree murder.
Trial for Kenneth McCoy, Jr., and Jessica Roberts, suspects in the murder of Penni Jo Curtiss in December, 2017, is now scheduled for May 28 in Wood County Circuit Court.
The two appeared Tuesday for a pre-trial motion hearing, much of which was centered around statements the two made to Parkersburg Police at the time of their arrest in late December.
They were indicted on several counts, including first-degree murder.
Roberts is also charged with fraudulent use of an access device, related to the use of a credit card belonging to Curtiss in the weeks before her death.
A police detective was questioned on that incident Tuesday. It is reported Curtiss reported the card use to her credit card company, and to acquaintances, but not to police.
Update: 1/12/2018 6:35 P.M.
Bond Friday was denied for Kenneth Leroy McCoy, Jr., the second of two suspects held without bond in the December 11 murder of Penni Curtis in Parkersburg.
Bond was also denied Monday for suspect Jessica Roberts in Wood County Circuit Court.
UPDATE: 1/5/2018 7:30 P.M.
The second suspect charged in the murder of Penni Curtiss has waived his preliminary hearing.
Kenneth McCoy Jr., 33, waived the hearing in Wood County Magistrate Court on Friday.
His case will now go to a grand jury in Wood County Circuit Court. A date for that has not been released at the moment.
UPDATE: 1/3/2018, 2:22 P.M.
One of two people charged in the Dec., 2017 murder of Penni Curtiss in Parkersburg has waived their preliminary hearing.
On Wednesday in Wood County Court, Jessica Roberts, 25, of Parkersburg, waived her preliminary hearing, meaning her case will now be heard by a Wood County grand jury.
Roberts and Kenneth McCoy, 33, are each charged with one count of murder, after police say they killed Penni Curtiss on Dec. 11, 2017 in her Tygart Street home, then stole her vehicle and drove to Flora, Illinois, where they were eventually found and arrested at a Wal-Mart.
Roberts also is charged with one count of forgery and uttering and one count of fraudulent use of an access device.
Roberts will have a bond hearing on Monday, January 8.
McCoy's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday, January 5.
UPDATE: 12/29/2017 11:55 A.M.
Kenneth Leroy McCoy, Jr. is now charged with one count of murder, in the death December 11 of Penni Curtiss.
He appeared Thursday by video arraignment in Wood County Magistrate Court, since he is currently held in the North Central Regional Jail for a parole violation.
His preliminary hearing is set for Friday, January 5th.
Co-defendant Jessica Roberts, arraigned Wednesday on murder charges, has a preliminary hearing scheduled Wednesday, January 3.
Both also face bond hearings in Wood County Circuit Court.
UPDATE: 12/28/2017 12:06 A.M.
A woman charged in the death of a Parkersburg woman was arraigned Wednesday evening in Wood County Magistrate Court following her extradition from Illinois.
Jessica Roberts is charged with murder in the death of Penni Curtis, who was found dead in her home on Dec. 12.
Roberts also is charged with one count of forgery and uttering and one count of fraudulent use of an access device.
For those lesser charges, her bond is set at $10,000. Her bond on the murder charge will be determined when she appears in Wood County Circuit Court. A date for that hearing hasn't been determined.
If Roberts is found guilty of murder in the death of Curtiss, she could could face life in prison.
She is being held at the North Central Regional Jail.
A co-defendant, Kenneth McCoy Jr., also is in the North Central Regional Jail. He was taken there after his extradition from Illinois.
He is being held on a parole violation, but authorities say he will be arraigned Thursday on a murder charge related to Curtiss' death.
Roberts and McCoy arrested by authorities in Flora., Ill., two days after authorities conducting a welfare check found Curtiss' body inside her home on Tygart Street in south Parkersburg.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Wood County Magistrate Court, Roberts and McCoy went into Curtiss home during the day on Dec. 11..
When Curtiss arrived home that evening, police say she was reportedly struck in the head multiple times. She suffered blunt force trauma and her throat was severely cut.
Authorities say Curtiss' death was a result of either the head trauma, the cuts to her throat or a combination of both.
Authorities say statements provided by McCoy and Roberts and evidence obtained during the investigation indicate that they both participated in Curtiss' death.
After Curtiss died, authorities say Roberts and McCoy took some of her personal belongings, including a van Curtiss drove.
UPDATE: 12/19/17 9:15 A.M.
Two suspects in the death of a Parkersburg woman will be returned to Wood County to face charges after appearing in an Illinois court late Monday afternoon.
Clay County, Ill., State's Attorney Joel Powless, says Kenneth McCoy, 33, and Jessica Roberts, 25, agreed not to contest their extradition during a court appearance that began about 3:30 p.m. Central time.
McCoy and Roberts were arrested by the Flora, Ill., Police Department on Dec. 14 after Parkersburg Police named them as "persons of interest" in the death of Penni Jo Curtiss, 53.
"Based on those interviews (by Illinois authorities), and what they had located in the vehicle prior to interviewing those two suspects," says Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, "they were able to tie up a lot of loose ends and recover evidence to support a very good case, and hopefully secure a good conviction."
Chief Martin says McCoy and Roberts are expected to be returned to Wood County in the few days.
Curtiss' body was found Dec. 12 inside her home on Tygart Street after authorities went there to conduct a welfare check.
Authorities have not released details or a possible motive in Curtiss' killing, but Martin calls it a "violent crime", based on evidence from the scene.
He says the victim knew McCoy and Roberts through a family member.
Both have unrelated charges pending in West Virginia.
Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says authorities plan to file murder charges once they're returned to Wood County.
UPDATE: 12/18/17 11:30 A.M.
Two suspects in the murder of a Parkersburg woman are due in court Monday in Illinois for an extradition hearing.
Kenneth McCoy, 33, and Jessica Roberts, 25, were arrested Thursday afternoon at a Wal-Mart in Flora. Ill.
The are suspects in the death of Penni Jo Curtiss, 53, whose body was found inside her Tygart Street home in south Parkersburg last Tuesday after police went there to do a welfare check.
Parkersburg Police detectives traveled to Clay County, Illinois, on Friday to interview both suspects.
Authorities have not released details or a possible motive in Curtiss' killing.
Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says authorities plan to file murder charges once they're returned to Wood County.
We'll continue to update this story online and during our evening newscasts.
UPDATE: 12/15/17 12:55 P.M.
Two people in wanted in connection with the death of a Parkersburg woman are in custody in Illinois.
Police in Flora, Ill., took Kenneth McCoy, 33, and Jessica Roberts, 25, into custody Thursday afternoon at a Wal-Mart.
Parkersburg Police say they are suspects in the death of Penni Jo Curtiss, 53, whose body was found inside her Tygart Street home Tuesday afternoon.
Police Chief Joe Martin says two detectives are in Illinois to interview both suspects.
He says his department is working to obtain murder warrants and begin the process of extraditing McCoy and Roberts to West Virginia.
We’ll continue to update this story online and during WTAP News @ 5 and 6.
UPDATE: 12/14/17 12:50 P.M.
Parkersburg Police have released the identity of a woman found dead inside her home on Tuesday and say they're looking for two people who might have information about her death.
Authorities found the body of Penni Jo Curtiss, 53, after going to her home at 1604 Tygart St., to conduct a welfare check.
Police Chief Joe Martin says details of this case are being withheld "to preserve the integrity of the investigation." He says additional information will be released at the appropriate time.
Police say Kenneth Leroy McCoy, 33, and Jessica Nicole Roberts, 25, are being sought for questioning.
Police say McCoy has an active warrant for parole violation and has a long criminal history. He should be considered dangerous.
McCoy and Roberts are believed to be together.
Police waited to release Curtiss' identify until after an autopsy was completed. Evidence collected at the crime scene is being analyzed at the West Virginia State Police crime lab in Charleston.
Police say two suspects in the case are believed to be driving a silver 2010 Chrysler Town and Country Van that is missing from Curtiss' residence.
City police are working with federal authorities to locate the suspects, who are believed to have left the state.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of McCoy or Roberts is asked to contact police at 304-424-8444 or www.pkbpolice.com.
Parkersburg Police are investigating a homicide. Officers got a call at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday afternoon for a welfare check at a home on Tygart Street in Parkersburg.
When they got there, they found a woman dead inside. Authorities are withholding the victim's name at this time. Investigators say an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.
They say there are two persons of interest in the case. If you noticed any suspicious activity in that area within the last 24 to 36 hours, Parkersburg Police want you to call them with what you know.
You can also leave an anonymous tip on their website.