Testimony Sheds Light On Degarmore Charges

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An investigator in the death of Paul E. Roberts testified about the actions of a man charged in connection with the death.

Robert Degarmore, who faces charges of receiving stolen property in the murder case for which Roberts' son, Paul J. Roberts, is awaiting trial, appeared in Athens County Common Pleas Court for a second stage hearing on community control violations.

The Wednesday hearing was the third appearance on the violations. The first was in October, a first stage hearing, and the second appearance was in January.

Investigator Tom McKnight took the witness stand to talk about recorded interviews he had conducted with Degarmore and another man who was not charged in the case.

During the hearing, the prosecution showed the court a surveillance video from the E-Z Mart in Glouster, which McKnight testified as showing Degarmore, Paul J. Roberts, Rhonda Degarmore and Carolyn Hook.

The group was shown getting gas at the station, with Roberts using a card that investigators claim was Paul E. Roberts' to pay for the gas. It also shows Robert Degarmore pumping gas into a vehicle owned by Paul E. Roberts and a vehicle driven by Hook, McKnight told the court.

The prosecution considered it a violation that Degarmore had associated with Paul J. Roberts, who is under indictment and awaiting sentencing on another case. Roberts is charged with aggravated murder in the death of his father as well as a number of other charges.

When investigators later interviewed Robert Degarmore, he told them it "seemed funny" that Paul J. Roberts would have a credit card. He also said he knew the elder Roberts would not have allowed them to use his card, McKnight testified.

"He said he knew if old Paul was there he wouldn't be getting gas," McKnight told the court.

McKnight said he couldn't recall what explanation was given by Robert Degarmore as to why Hook received gas paid for using the elder Roberts' card.

Degarmore violated community control with his “complicity to being in possession of a credit card that did not belong to him,” according to the notice, filed Oct. 23. The other violations being argued include accusations that he helped transport a stolen pool table and a water heater.

In a surveillance recording that was not shown in court, Robert Degarmore is allegedly seen taking items out of the bed of a truck at Cullison Scrap Metal. He was at the scrap yard with Paul J. Roberts, and Clarence Hanes, according to McKnight.

Though Hanes did not get out of the vehicle, he told investigators that he went to Paul E. Roberts' residence to pick up "junk," which included a hot water heater and a pool table, according to McKnight.

Hanes has not been charged in the case, according to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

McKnight said Robert Degarmore "helped" take the pool table out of the residence and had helped get the hot water heater into the truck. For his work, the man received "a hit of heroin," McKnight alleged.

Denise Carter Brooks, of the Adult Parole Authority, also testified, saying Robert Degarmore's compliance with his community control conditions has been "poor."

"(He has had) some stable (compliance) that would last a couple months and then he'd fall back again," Brooks said.

Robert Degarmore appeared in court on Oct. 30 after the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office filed a notice of violation of community control. At the first stage hearing, which is a hearing to decide whether there is probable cause that an offender violated community control conditions, Degarmore admitted to all seven violations, according to previous Messenger reporting.

At what was scheduled as a second stage hearing on Jan. 2, the prosecution and defense attorney Bill Biddlestone couldn’t come to an agreement on the violations. Judge George McCarthy made the decision that the first stage hearing would continue after Biddlestone brought up the question of how much proof was needed to find Degarmore in violation of his control.

Degarmore admitted in January to using heroin on two occasions, two of the seven violations listed in the notice , but said the prosecution needed to present “substantial proof” rather than just probable cause, that is, enough evidence that the the other violations could be believed to have occurred.

His sister, Rhonda Degarmore, is also implicated in the case. She was charged with felony receiving stolen property and theft. She agreed to a plea deal with the prosecution in exchange for her testimony against Paul J. Roberts, her husband.

Hook is facing charges of receiving stolen property in the use of the credit card, for which she was indicted on Jan. 13, according to Blackburn. She pleaded innocent to the indictment and was released on a recognizance bond.

She is set to appear for a pre-trial on March 3, and has a jury trial tentatively set for April 8.

Judge George McCarthy said he would rule on Robert Degarmore's violations at a hearing on March 4.

A jury trial on the receiving stolen property case is scheduled for March 27.