Younker gets 4 months for concealing dead body
Donovan Carl Younker pled guilty to concealing a dead body and
was given a suspended sentence of one-to-five years in prison last Friday in Morgan County Circuit Court.
Younker’s trial had been set to begin yesterday on felony charges that he helped neighbor Stephen J. Tamburo III in concealing the body of Stephen J. Tamburo, Jr. in December, 2008.
But at a pretrial hearing on December 2, the 29-year-old Morgan County man changed his plea to guilty under Alford circumstances.
After legal discussion about the exact meaning of the “Alford” plea, it was determined that the plea meant that while Younker did not admit the truth of the charge against him, he did accept some responsibility and realized there was enough evidence against him that a jury might find him guilty.
Under the plea bargain accepted by Circuit Judge David Sanders, Younker must serve four months in jail, in addition to the suspended prison term. After his release, he will be on five years probation.
He must also work 100 hours of community service, pay a $1,000 fine and may not own firearms. He signed a blanket waiver of extradition, which means the state does not have to go through extradition hearings to have Younker returned from other jurisdictions if need be in the future.
The judge rejected a request by defense attorney Charles Trump that Younker be allowed to begin serving his jail time after the holidays.
The case against him Special Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said the state could prove that Stephen Tamburo III had shot his father four times on December 7, 2008, following an argument between the two men that had started on December 5.
During the two day period, the younger Tamburo had spent time in Younker’s home, across Shanghai Road from the Tamburo residence in southern Morgan County.
The murder weapon was similar to a gun that belonged to Younker, but there was no exact match due to the condition of the body when it was found months later.
The prosecutor said that during police interviews, Younker said that Tamburo told him that he had shot his father and, on the night of the slaying, asked Younker to help him move a rug. There was no proof that Younker was involved in the actual murder, Games-Neely said.
The rug was described as a rolled-up “area rug” that required two men to move to the bed of the elder Tamburo’s pickup truck.
Younker later maintained that he misspoke in telling police that Tamburo had told him about killing his father.
Two weeks after the murder, Younker reported to West Virginia State Police that Stephen Tamburo Jr. was missing and that he did not know where the son was.
In late April 2009, Tamburo’s badly decomposed body was found by a mushroom hunter in Sleepy Creek Public Hunting. The body had apparently been attacked and moved by a bear, as well.
The younger Tamburo was later found in Florida and returned here. He is now serving a life-with-mercy sentence after pleading guilty to murder last December.
Games-Neely said she didn’t believe Younker was “an intentionally bad person” and that it’s unlikely he will be in trouble again.
But, she said, he knew the body was wrapped in the rug and he
didn’t tell authorities all that he could have, impeding the investigation and causing additional grief for Tamburo’s family.
The Younker case had a complex legal history, with Judge Sanders being the third circuit judge assigned. Judges Gina Groh and John Yoder had previously recused themselves.
Berkeley County Prosecutor Games-Neely was named special prosecuting attorney after defense attorney Trump subpoenaed Morgan County Prosecutor Debra McLaughlin, who had been present at some of the police interviews.
Earlier this fall, Judge Sanders rejected a proposed plea deal by which Younker would have pled “no contest” to the felony of aiding and abetting, and would be placed on probation without jail time. Both investigating officer Trooper A. T. Peer and the victim’s family objected.
The officer and family were on-board with the current plea and sentence.
Through their spokesman, the family commended Peer for his work and perseverance through the long investigation and court proceedings.