Three men have been charged in connection to a heinous month-old West Virginia murder in which the victim's body was burned.
Authorities in Jefferson County were called to a rural intersection on March 18 after someone reported a body on fire, the Carroll County Times reports. When investigators arrived on scene they found a trail of blood that led about 40 feet into a wooded area. There, they discovered the body of Jonathan Riddle, 33, engulfed in flames.
After first responders put out the fire, they discovered that Riddle had suffered numerous puncture marks, indicative of a stabbing, to his head and body. He had also suffered other injuries to his face and head. An autopsy conducted on his partially charred body revealed he was repeatedly stabbed and struck on the head before he was set on fire. His death has been ruled a homicide.
An investigation into Riddle’s death has led to the arrest of three Maryland men: David R. Sanford Jr., 26, John W. Black III, 22, and Monroe Merrell, 22.
Sanford and Merrell, both from Westminster, were arrested April 10 and April 15, respectively. Black, of Taneytown, was arrested Monday. They have all been charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping; Black has been additionally charged with conspiring to commit first-degree murder. They are all being held without bond.
It’s unclear how investigators linked the trio to the murder or if they knew the victim. Riddle, like Black, lived in Taneytown, Maryland. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Det. Sgt. Steven Holz told the Carroll County News that investigators do not think that it was a random killing. A motive has not been disclosed.
Diana Denrich Riddle, the victim's wife, told Oxygen.com that her slain husband was a “talented carpenter” who had dreams of starting his own business. They wed in 2018 and he became a stepfather to her children.
“He absolutely loved my children and treated them as his own,” she said. “He would do outdoor activities with my son. My son learned how to shoot in Boy Scouts and Jon was so proud.”
Jonathan’s obituary stated that he enjoyed traveling, camping, and going on cruises. In fact, he and his wife had a cruise planned for August.
“I’ve always enjoyed traveling but he had never been on a plane until we went on our family honeymoon last year,” his wife said. “He fell in love with traveling and this past summer, he went on his first cruise and he was so excited to do it again.”
She said he also had plans to become a firefighter in their community.
“His grandfather was a fireman, and Jon always wanted to be a volunteer firefighter,” she told Oxygen.com. “He would take my daughter Madeline to ‘chase fires’ when he heard the sirens.”
It’s not clear if any of the suspects have lawyers who can speak on their behalf. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has not responded to Oxygen.com’s request for comment.
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