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3 Carroll County men charged with murder in West Virginia; Taneytown man was stabbed, set on fire, police say

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

Three Carroll County men face murder and kidnapping charges after police found a Taneytown man’s body on fire in West Virginia, nearly 70 miles from the home of one of the accused.

David R. Sanford Jr., 26, of the 300 block of E. Main Street in Westminster was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in Jefferson County in connection with the death of Jonathan Riddle, according to charging documents. Sanford was arrested April 10 on a West Virginia warrant and committed to Carroll County Detention Center, online court records show. He was booked at Eastern Regional Jail in West Virginia on April 14 and is being held without bond at Potomac Heights Regional Jail as of April 23, according to online records.

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John W. Black III, 22, of the unit block of York Street in Taneytown, also was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping and was additionally charged with conspiring to commit first-degree murder, charging documents show. Black was committed to Eastern Regional Jail on Monday afternoon and is being held without bond, online jail records indicate.

Monroe Merrell, 22, of Westminster, also faces the first-degree murder and kidnapping charges in Riddle’s death, according to Det. Sgt. Steven Holz of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in West Virginia. Merrell was arrested in Virginia Beach on a West Virginia fugitive from justice warrant on April 15, according to online court records. He is being held in a Virginia Beach jail without bond. An extradition hearing is scheduled for May 18.

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Although Holz said he could not discuss the details of he case, he said police do not believe this was a random crime.

Riddle, 33, was a husband, step-father and uncle, according to an online obituary. He enjoyed camping, cruises and traveling with his wife.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office personnel responded to Smith and Ward Clipp roads in Rippon, West Virginia, for a report of a body on fire at about 7:34 a.m. on March 18, charging documents state. Police saw a partially burned man on the ground and used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on the torso. Police determined the man was dead. He had several puncture marks in his chest and body, and injuries to his head and face.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified the deceased as Riddle through fingerprint records, charging documents say. An autopsy revealed the cause of death was numerous stab wounds and blunt force trauma to the head. The death was ruled a homicide.

An informant told police Riddle was set on fire to destroy evidence, according to charging documents.

Police found the barefoot body in a wooded area about 40 feet from the road, according to charging documents. A trail of blood led to the body from a large pool of blood on the road. The investigating officer wrote that, based on the evidence, he believed Riddle was still alive when he arrived at the area.

Through their investigation, police connected a 2015 Chevrolet Malibu with Maryland license plates to the incident, charging documents state. The documents did not explain how police did this.

The vehicle was found in the 1000 block of Stone Road in Westminster on March 20, which led to police to speak with Merrell, who appeared nervous and had a small cut on his hand, charging documents read.

Police searched the vehicle and found a bloodstain on the passenger side doorsill, according to charging documents. The police report did not say who owned the vehicle.

Merrell had been listed as living in the 1000 block of Stone Road in previous Maryland court cases dating back to 2016, online court records show.

He was previously charged with kidnapping a woman at knifepoint in 2016. Merrell took an Alford plea for the kidnapping charge, which functions as a guilty plea, and in 2017 was sentenced to 20 years with all but five years suspended, online court records indicate. Online records do not specify when he was released.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office charging documents did not specify whether Merrell lives on Stone Road now, though Holz said his last known address was in Westminster.

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Police learned Riddle had been at Sanford’s Westminster residence late at night March 17 to meet with a woman, charging documents state. An informant told police they saw Merrell fighting with Riddle in Sanford’s home, Merrell restrained Riddle and told Sanford to stab Riddle, charging documents read.

The informant said they saw Sanford stab Riddle twice in the stomach, Riddle tried to escape but he was subdued; his feet and hands were bound with a sheet, according to charging documents.

Multiple people were at Sanford’s residence when the assault began, including Black, the informant told police. Black was involved in transporting Riddle, and Black said he stabbed Riddle several times, according to the informant, charging documents state.

While Riddle was still alive, he was taken to West Virginia, then stabbed numerous times and set on fire, the informant told police.

Attorney information for the men accused was not available.

Holz could not say whether charges are being pursued against the defendants in other jurisdictions.

The Office of the Carroll County State’s Attorney declined to comment on the case. Cara Frieman, of the state’s attorney’s office, said Monday their office is unable to comment on ongoing investigations.

Westminster police Chief Thomas Ledwell said his department is assisting Maryland State Police in the investigation. The State Police are assisting the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

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