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Westminster man charged with killing Taneytown woman, a possible witness, in West Virginia

A Westminster man now faces not one, but two charges of first-degree murder in what’s been a monthslong police investigation into the killings of three Carroll County residents in West Virginia.

David R. Sanford Jr., 26, was charged with first-degree murder in Berkeley County, West Virginia, a magisterial court official confirmed Monday morning. Sgt. Steven Holz, who is investigating on behalf of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, wrote in an email the charge is in relation to the death of 18-year-old Taneytown resident Danielle Tyler, who went missing April 6. In May, police announced Sanford allegedly suffocated Tyler to death with a plastic bag after luring her to West Virginia.

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Sanford also faces charges in the death of Taneytown resident Jonathan Riddle, 33, whose burning body was found by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in Rippon, West Virginia, on March 18. Holz wrote police suspect Sanford killed Tyler due to her knowledge of Riddle’s murder.

Sanford is being held without bond at Potomac Highlands Regional Jail in West Virginia, online jail records show. He was arrested April 14 for Riddle’s murder but was just recently charged in Tyler’s killing.

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Sanford is among a number of Carroll County and West Virginia residents who have been arrested in relation to the deaths of Tyler and Riddle. Also among the dead is Heather Grogg, a 33-year-old Westminster woman who was a live-in babysitter for Sanford.

According to a Berkeley County criminal complaint, Sanford was among those who drove Grogg and Tyler to the home of April Braner in Falling Waters, West Virginia, on April 6, telling the Carroll County women they would be safe there from the ongoing criminal investigation into Riddle’s murder.

But the complaint alleges that Westminster resident Monroe Merrell arranged for Grogg and Tyler to be brought there specifically to have them killed and that Braner knew of the plan and assisted. Merrell, 23, is being held without bond in connection to Riddle’s murder. Braner, 37, is also being held without bond.

Tyler was brought to a gutted out trailer used for parties across the street from Braner’s home, the complaint reads, where Sanford used a plastic bag to suffocate Tyler. After Sanford’s first attempt with the bag was unsuccessful, Braner allegedly checked Tyler and found her still alive, then Sanford used the bag again until Tyler was dead.

Sanford had a preliminary hearing scheduled for Monday in Berkeley County court, but it was continued, according to Holz. Sanford’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Monday morning.

Joseph Kinser and Catie Wilkes Delligatti are prosecuting the case on behalf of the state. Although the allegations against Sanford regarding Tyler’s death have been known for months, Kinser said his office did not charge Sanford immediately in Berkeley County since he was already being held without bond on a murder charge in Jefferson County.

“It’s really just more procedural in nature," Kinser explained.

Kinser does not yet know when Sanford’s hearing will be rescheduled. His understanding was the hearing Monday was pushed back due to Sanford not being able to attend the hearing in person. A transport order arrived too late to the jail where Sanford is being held.

Kinser said he could not comment on whether other people will be charged in relation to Tyler’s and Grogg’s deaths. Westminster resident Jeffrey C. Smith Jr., 22, has been charged with shooting Grogg and is being held without bond. Norman A. Bradford Jr., 49, of Falling Waters, is being held without bond for allegedly providing the gun that killed Grogg and helping dispose of her body.

“The investigation and everything is very much ongoing," Kinser said Monday. "Law enforcement is working their butt off on this one.”

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