Monday, October 08, 2007

Bondsman Must Establish Fugitive Is Dead

A bail bonding company has 60 days to prove a murder suspect is dead or risk losing $350,000 put up to promise the fugitive's appearance in court.

David Coffman, 46, skipped town in September 2006 while facing a first-degree murder charge accusing him of fatally shooting his 47-year-old girlfriend Julie Hall in the back.

In January, police and ABC Bail Bonding received photos of a dead body in the mail that the sender claimed was Coffman's. The photo allegedly was shot during an autopsy conducted in Mexico and the package included copies of Coffman's bank card, credit cards, Social Security card and a photo of his girlfriend said to have been found on the dead man's badly beaten body. It also included fingerprints, which the FBI confirmed were Coffman's.

But Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Russell Clawges and Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown say that's not good enough.

At a court hearing Tuesday on whether ABC Bail Bonding should forfeit the $350,000 put up for Coffman's bond, Clawges gave the company 60 days to provide dental records or DNA tests that match Coffman to the body.

Ashdown said Wednesday that the body in the photograph "may very well be'' that of Coffman, but it also could be part of "an elaborate hoax.''

Attempts to obtain copies of any police or autopsy reports to validate Coffman's death or have the body returned to West Virginia for testing have been unsuccessful, she said.

"We were told it's not like here, where police document everything,'' she said.

Though ABC Bail Bonding is fully responsible for the bond, Coffman's mother, Gloria Linger, was originally led to believe that she could lose her home if her son skipped out on his bail, Linger's attorney, Lynne Crane of Morgantown, said Wednesday.

Linger has since gone through bankruptcy, but maintains possession of her home, according to bankruptcy records filed in the Northern District of U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The $350,000 bond "was an unsecured debt. There was no lien on her property,'' Crane said.

Police said Coffman shot Hall over the Memorial Day weekend in 2006 after she told him she was leaving him.

Coffman was last seen at a Mount Morris, Pa., truck stop, where his Jeep was found in late September 2006. Police think he likely caught a ride south with a truck driver.

Their attention turned to Mexico after Coffman's bank account was tapped in Mexico City.

A call to the bonding company's attorney, David Jividen of Wheeling, was not immediately returned.

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