Trial for 2020 homicide just off Fairmont State's campus will be a battle of motive

·3 min read

Jul. 13—FAIRMONT — The first-degree murder trial for David Hunter Lewis began Tuesday in Marion County Circuit Court after a lengthy morning jury selection process.

Lewis, 22, of Bridgeport, is charged for the December 2020 murder of 21-year-old Dylan Matthew Harr, who was fatally shot at his rented home at 1009 Bryant St., next to the entrance of Fairmont State University. Lewis is also charged with the use of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Lewis was indicted by the 2021 Marion County Grand Jury on the charges.

After opening arguments, the prosecution called their first few witnesses Tuesday afternoon as a thunderstorm rolled in.

The prosecution is led by Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Freeman and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney J. T. Hodges. Freeman started off with his opening arguments, tugging at the jury's empathy.

Freeman told jurors Harr had recently gained half-custody of his one-year-old son just before the murder. Freeman was careful to mourn the loss of a young life, without directly referencing the possible life sentence staring at the defendant, who was the same age as the victim at the time of the crime.

"This case isn't all about David [Lewis], it's about what he did. More importantly, and by the end I hope you agree, it should be about Dylan Harr," Freeman said to the jury. "[Lewis] committed an awful, awful, heinous crime. He used a firearm to kill another 20-year-old man."

The story the prosecution tells is that Lewis was living with Harr at the Bryant Street home as a temporary situation. The two men got into a disagreement about paying the rent that eventually resulted in Lewis shooting Harr in the chest with a firearm after Harr kicked him out of the house.

The details about the injuries Harr sustained will be discussed in detail in court when the medical examiner takes the stand, but the picture Freeman painted is that Lewis put his arm around Harr's shoulder and shot down through Harr's chest.

The prosecution didn't say if the weapon was recovered, but what was recovered was Lewis' jacket he was wearing the night of the murder, which tested positive for gunshot residue and has a bullet hole in the pocket, indicating that Lewis fired the weapon while it was concealed in his pocket.

The prosecution asserts that the attack was unprovoked and with malice, evidenced by the concealed weapon.

"It's going to be hard. David Lewis is a 22-year-old, he was 20 when this happened. He's young," Freeman said. "I ask you [the jury] to join me in speaking for Dylan."

The defense focused on the first-degree murder charge in their opening statements and emphasized the burden of proof the prosecution bears.

The defense's opening arguments were given by John Rogers, who said that the jury will be shown evidence that will prove any bad feelings between Harr and Lewis were worked out before the murder, leaving Lewis without a motive.

Rogers never outright denied that Lewis shot Harr, but he did call into question the state's claim that the murder was premeditated and malicious. Rogers claims that after Lewis left the house on the day of the murder and Harr followed behind him just before the gunshot. There are no witnesses to show that the murder was malicious or planned, according to the defense.

In order to prove first-degree murder, prosecutors must show that Lewis had planned to kill Harr that night before the altercation began.

"The state has the burden of proving that Mr. Lewis premeditated and intentionally killed Mr. Harr," Rogers said. "Treat the state's case like a ship... the state is going to try to convince you that the ship is ready to set sail. You get to inspect that ship and determine if it's ready to set sail. My job is to point out holes in that ship."

The trial is scheduled to continue throughout the week.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.