GILBERT — After committing daytime breaking and entering, grand larceny and then the unthinkable act of first degree murder, a Wyoming man opted to flee the scene in the victim’s vehicle and drove to Mingo County. Thanks to the fast response time and quick thinking of officers with the Gilbert Police Department (GPD) and the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department MCSD), his journey ended with a ride to jail in the back of a police cruiser.
John New, 20, of Briar Creek in Wyoming County, was in the process of committing a burglary at a house located on Shannon Mill Road when the homeowner, Elaine Birchfield, 60, arrived home from her job as a county school bus driver, having no idea that an intruder was inside. She was shot once at close range and died at the scene.
According to reports received from GPD Asst. Chief N. Glanden and Wyoming County Sheriff’s Dept. Sgt. Teddy Riffe, the defendant confessed to the charges against him following his arrest that occurred on U.S. Rt. 52 at Horsepen, after the stolen vehicle was spotted in the area by an employee of the Gilbert Speedway, who reported the sighting to Mingo County 911.
“We were told the 1999 GMC Sierra K1500 extend-cab truck was seen heading toward Horsepen,” stated Glanden. “When we reached Gilbert Creek, we weren’t sure which direction the defendant had gone. We split up to allow coverage in all three directions. Myself and MCSD Deputy Roger Fitch heard Deputy Mike Miller radio dispatch to run a license plate number and as soon as we heard it, we immediately turned around because we knew that Miller had found him.”
“Deputy Miller was trying to wait on us to arrive before making the traffic stop because we knew the defendant was armed and dangerous. But, those plans changed when New pulled into the drive of a residence. Miller had to go ahead and perform the felony traffic stop because he feared for the safety of those inside the home.”
In less than a couple of minutes after the deputy conducted the stop, additional officers arrived and the defendant was taken into custody without incident. A female passenger in the truck had been with New for only a short period of time and had no clue about the crimes he had just committed in Wyoming County. She was not charged and was released after giving a statement to police.
During his questioning, the defendant allegedly told the officers in a casual voice that was said to be nonchalant and without feeling that he was in the process of burglarizing Birchfield’s home when she arrived at her residence. He stated that he hid from sight until she entered the bedroom of the house and jumped out on her, subdued and then shot her once with her own gun. He then ransacked the house and collected all of the money he could find and additional ammunition for the gun and left the location in Birchfield’s truck.
“He was so calm…he wasn’t nervous at all and he was talking about this terrible crime in the same tone of voice one would use to explain what they had for breakfast. I have never in the 17 years I’ve been a police officer met a defendant so cold and void of emotion as John New. He couldn’t have a conscious or any regret. He talked to us like it was no big deal…he even kept the spent shell casings from the crime scene, I guess as some kind of a sick souvenir to remind him of taking someone else’s life. He truly beats all I’ve ever seen,” said Glanden.
New was arrested and charged in Mingo County with transferring stolen property and driving on a suspended license, which he had been cited for twice in the past. He was arraigned before Mingo County Magistrate Dee Sidebottom and was remanded to the Southwestern Regional Jail on a $20,000 bond. He was then transferred to the Southern Regional Jail and was arraigned in Wyoming County on the charges of 1st degree murder, daytime breaking and entering, daytime burglary and grand larceny. The defendant remains behind bars awaiting his preliminary hearing and may be facing additional charges.
Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Teddy Riffe, the primary investigator on the case, voiced his relief that the defendant was apprehended quickly before anyone else became a victim at his hands, and remarked that he appreciated the teamwork he was provided by Mingo County law enforcement members.