Convict to remain jailed during case review

November 17, 2018
Curtis Johnson/The Herald-Dispatch Brian Emerson Dement, right, stands next to defense attorney Kent Bryson in court Tuesday morning. Dement pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the 2002 slaying of Deanna L. Crawford.

HUNTINGTON - The last remaining defendant in prison as part of a four-man murder conviction now being questioned in the 2002 death of Deanna Crawford will remain incarcerated.

A judge ruled his criminal history and confession to the crime were enough to deny granting him a post-conviction bond.

Brian Emerson Dement made the request to be released on bond as attorneys work to possibly exonerate him and his three co-defendants - Justin Black, and Nathaniel and Philip Barnett - after newly tested DNA evidence and statements from three women implicated another man as possibly being the killer.

Dement, Black and the Barnett brothers had been jailed more than 10 years based on the now-recanted statement of Dement, which led to their convictions in Crawford’s death.

Last year, Cabell Circuit Judge Aflred E. Ferguson agreed to let DNA evidence be retested with more advanced technology, and the results identified a man’s DNA in semen and on at least one cigarette butt found at the scene. When asked, the man had no explanation for how his DNA would be at the scene.

Three of his ex-wives have told police he admitted he had killed a woman about the time of Crawford’s death and one said a family member had been at the scene at the time of the slaying.

In denying the motion for bail, Ferguson cited Dement’s extensive criminal history and confession as reasons to keep him behind bars for the time being.

By the age of 26, Dement had been arrested five times and was charged with six citations, 13 misdemeanors and three felony offenses.

He was convicted of four citations, five misdemeanors and two felonies, including the murder charge.

He also has a history of battery and domestic-related cases, Ferguson said, and has a violent history of carrying a dangerous weapon, obstructing an officer and battery.

Ferguson also cited Dement’s confession to the crime as a reason.

“The court understands the history and data as it pertains to false confessions. However, the fact remains that he admitted his guilt and participation in the death of Ms. Crawford. Regardless of his motives in giving incriminating statements, while he now asserts his innocence, the mere presence of another person’s DNA at the crime scene does not automatically exonerate petitioner,” Ferguson wrote.

Dement is housed at North Central Correctional Facility in Greenwood, West Virginia. His projected release date is August 2022.

All other defendants have been released from prison, including Philip Barnett, who Ferguson released on a post-conviction bond.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.