Carroll County Times
Carroll County Crime

Before Taneytown man was killed in West Virginia, police say dispute started in Westminster over drugs

From left, John W. Black III, Monroe Merrell and David R. Sanford Jr. have all been charged in connection with the killing of a Taneytown man.

A party with the Pagans Motorcycle Club, an argument over drugs and a torched car are among new details related to the investigation of a Taneytown man’s death in West Virginia that police have raised in court.

Sgt. Steve Holz of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in West Virginia has been investigating the killing of Jonathan Riddle, whose body was found on fire about 40 feet from the road in Rippon, West Virginia, on March 18, according to charging documents.


On Monday, Holz shared with the Carroll County Times information regarding the investigation that he previously testified to in court proceedings in West Virginia.

Riddle was first stabbed at a Westminster apartment when a fight broke out, according to charging documents. Holz said the dispute started after Riddle was accused of taking someone’s drugs.


“The fight was over a disagreement about a missing controlled substance,” Holz said.

According to charging documents, Riddle had gone to the residence to see Westminster resident Heather Grogg, 33, before she was shot to death April 6 in Falling Waters, West Virginia.

Holz said the disagreement was among Riddle and Westminster residents Monroe Merrell, 22, and David Sanford Jr., 26, who have each been charged with Riddle’s murder, along with Taneytown resident John Black III, 22.

Sanford rented the apartment where the stabbing allegedly occurred and where Grogg was a live-in babysitter for Sanford and Emily Day, 27, according to Grogg’s family.

The fight with Riddle started after a group of people returned from a St. Patrick’s Day party at a Pagans clubhouse in West Virginia, Holz said. The partygoers included Sanford, Black, Merrell, Day, 18-year-old Taneytown resident Danielle Tyler and two unnamed teens, according to Holz. He declined to say whether the two juveniles who came from the Pagans party had been charged as juveniles in connection to Riddle’s murder, but did say one of them provided a can of gasoline that was used to burn Riddle’s body.

The federal government classifies the Pagans Motorcycle Club as a violent outlaw motorcycle gang. Holz declined to say whether any of the people relating to the case were members of the Pagans.

Day had been charged with being an accessory to murder, before and after the fact, involving Riddle’s death, according to charging documents. But she pleaded not guilty April 29, and on May 28 the case was dismissed for lack of probable cause, according to a court clerk.

Police suspect that after the stabbing, Riddle was bound and driven in his car by Merrell to West Virginia, Holz said, where police say he was again stabbed multiple times and set on fire in Rippon. Riddle’s car was found in Frederick County a few days later — Holz said he believes it was March 21.


“It was torched in a field,” Holz said. A burned frame was all that remained.

Police suspect Merrell abandoned the car after Riddle was killed. It was found in a field near Route 340 outside of Brunswick, according to Holz.

Carroll County Breaking News

Carroll County Breaking News

As it happens

When big news breaks, be the first to know.

After Riddle’s death was reported, Maryland State Police announced Tyler and Grogg were missing. On May 18, Westminster resident Jeffrey C. Smith Jr., 22, was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy in the shooting death of Grogg. Smith’s charging documents also stated Sanford killed Tyler by suffocating her with a bag, though no charges had been filed against Sanford in Berkeley County Magisterial Court as of Monday.

Holz said he suspects Grogg and Tyler were considered liabilities by those who were involved in Riddle’s killing.

“I believe that they had knowledge of the homicide of Jonathan Riddle,” Holz said.

Sanford’s attorney in Jefferson County declined to comment when reached by phone Monday. Black’s and Day’s attorneys could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. No attorney information was available for Merrell or Smith.


Smith has a preliminary hearing scheduled for June 4. Merrell has a court date set for July 7.

Holz said the investigation is “very active” and ongoing.

As of Monday evening, Black, Merrell, Sanford, and Smith were being held in West Virginia jails without bond.