Weinschel guilty of attempted murder
After less than three hours of deliberation last week, a Morgan County jury found Zebulon G. Weinschel guilty of attempting to murder a Maryland man following a drunken party in Hancock in January, 2006.
Weinschel, who was then 25, cut the throat of Mike Broadwater, then 19, during an excursion from Hancock to a cave in Morgan County on Saturday, January 7, 2006.
Broadwater was also stabbed with a screwdriver and received other injuries while fighting off Weinschel, according to testimony at the three-day trial.
At the time, Weinschel was living with his younger brother Alex in a small apartment on West Main Street in Hancock.
How it started
The series of events began when Broadwater accompanied David Karschner and Mindy Myers from Mt. Airy to visit Alex Weinschel, a friend of Karschner's.
Karschner, then 20, testified that they planned to drink and hang out at Weinschel's. When they got there, 17-year-old Jeremiah Jenkins of Berkeley Springs was also at the apartment as was Jenkins' father who soon left, Karschner testified.
Karschner and Myers, then 16, described a night of drinking beer and vodka.
Sometime in the early morning hours, Zebulon Weinschel returned home after visiting a friend in Frederick.
Drinking continued and around 8 a.m. on Saturday, Weinschel, Broadwater and Jenkins went to a Hancock liquor store to buy more beer.
Karschner said he told Weinschel that his mother had thrown him out because Broadwater had brought liquor to Karschner's home.
Weinschel said he would take care of Broadwater, Karschner testified.
Asked what he believed Weinschel meant, Karschner replied, Where I'm from, saying you're going to take care of him means jump on him, beat him up.
Karschner maintained there was no plot to get even with Broadwater.
He also said Weinschel had a Phillips-head screwdriver that had been ground down to a point.
Later that morning, Weinschel said he wanted to go four-wheeling. The idea was to drive Alex Weinschel's Cherokee along the railroad road in Morgan County and check out a cave near Sir Johns Run.
He asked Jenkins to go along as navigator since Jenkins knew where the cave was. Broadwater, who had just met the other men, was also asked to go along.
Broadwater said he had a bad feeling from the start about the excursion, but that Karschner encouraged him to go.
When they returned
When Weinschel and Jenkins returned to the apartment in early afternoon, Weinschel was covered with blood, according to testimony.
When they asked what happened, Weinschel said he got in a fight with a deer, Karschner and Myers said.
At Weinschel's urging, everyone rushed out of the apartment, got in the Cherokee and drove to Weinschel's father's house in Morgan County.
There, they left the Cherokee and borrowed the father's pickup truck. Zebulon Weinschel stayed at Ian Weinschel's house until he went to the West Virginia State Police barracks for questioning that night.
Alex Weinschel drove the others home in the pickup. When he got back to Mt. Airy, Karschner called Maryland police.
Police were already hearing about the incident from Broadwater. He said that after a fight with Weinschel, he forced Weinschel at knifepoint to drop him off at the Hancock Sheetz so he could call 911.
The victim's story
The case revolved around different accounts of what actually happened when Weinschel, Broadwater and Jenkins took their trip to the cave near the CSX tracks.
Broadwater testified that Weinschel kept trying to get him to go into the cave, but he stayed outside.
Jenkins was scouting the area. Broadwater said that when Jenkins returned, he announced there was no other opening to the cave and there was no one around.
Broadwater said that while he was urinating, Weinschel came up behind him and stabbed him in the back twice with the screwdriver before slitting his throat with a knife.
As Broadwater sat in the witness chair, the jury could see a semi-circular scar across his neck.
He claimed Weinschel said that Karschner told him to do it because Broadwater had crossed him.
Broadwater said he was pushed down to the ground and the two men fought and rolled around for some time.
He said Weinschel told him to relax, that it would be over soon.
I seriously thought I was going to die, Broadwater told the jury.
He said he was having trouble breathing and that one of the stabs had punctured his lung.
Broadwater, a large man, managed to get the screwdriver from Weinschel and stabbed him a number of times through his jacket and on his head.
Eventually they stopped fighting and Broadwater said he held the screwdriver on Weinschel and instructed Weinschel and Jenkins to take him to town for medical help. He said he had noticed the Sheetz store so he made them drop him off there.
As they went back to
Hancock with Jenkins driving, Weinschel hugged and kissed him and talked about everything being okay, Broadwater said.
Broadwater got out behind the Sheetz store and as he went in, he called for help. The sad part about it was nobody in there helped me, he said. Only a black couple came to his aid, he said.
The broad outlines of Broadwater's story were confirmed by Jeremiah Jenkins.
Jenkins said he saw Weinschel make an arm motion by Broadwater's neck that appeared to be the throat slitting, and that as the fight progressed, he saw a knife and screwdriver. He was not sure where they came from.
Jenkins said when Broadwater eventually got control of the fight, he stabbed Weinschel as many as 10 times.
Jenkins said both men asked him for help at various times, but he stayed out of it.
He drove the Cherokee back to Hancock because both men were badly hurt, he said.
Jenkins said he didn't tell police at first that he was the driver because he didn't have a license.
Zebulon Weinschel's version differed in significant ways. He said that he returned to the Hancock apartment about five in the morning. He began drinking with the partiers and had also been drinking earlier, he said.
There was no serious discussion and everyone was getting along. Going four wheeling to find the cave was a spur of the moment decisionand he had never been there before, Weinschel said.
Weinschel said they spent a lot of time wandering around the cave and hillside. As they looked over the cave, he and Broadwater got into an argument.
Weinschel could not recall the specifics, but said, A lot of bad energy was building up. Jenkins was not around at the time.
As they walked away from the cave, the two men were tossing insults at each other and Broadwater turned and shoved him, Weinschel said.
When he shoved back, Broadwater pulled a screwdriver or knife out of his pocket and began swinging it at him, Weinschel said.
Weinschel said he had a kitchen knife with him. The two men started stabbing each other and rolling on the ground as they engaged in what Weinschel called a rough fight.
During the 10-minute battle, Weinschel said he cut Broadwater's throat and managed to get the screwdriver for a while until Broadwater took it back.
He said he yelled for Jenkins to help, but Jenkins did nothing.
Eventually the fight just sort of stopped, Weinschel said.
Both men were badly hurt and headed back to town, with Weinschel driving and Broadwater in the back seat, according to Weinschel's account.
He said the reason they swapped the Cherokee for his father's pickup truck was that his brother was worried about the Cherokee's transmission.
Late Thursday afternoon, February 7, the Circuit Court jury found Weinschel guilty of two felony offenses — attempted murder in the second degree and unlawful assault – as well as brandishing a weapon, a misdemeanor.
At the time of the crime, Weinschel was on parole from a 2002 conviction for assault in Maryland, said Prosecutor Debra McLaughlin.
Judge Gina Groh set Weinschel's sentencing for May 5.