Drennen trial goes to jury

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County jury is now deliberating the murder case of Joshua Drennen.

Joshua Drennen

Drennen, 28, of Clendenin, faces eight criminal counts in connection with a one-day crime spree on Feb. 11, 2020 on Charleston’s West Side. He killed Barbara Steele, 77, injured another woman during a carjacking and attacked a Charleston police officer before the officer stopped him by shooting him.

Deliberations began at about 3:45 p.m. Friday.

During closing arguments, Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Drummond detailed each charge against Drennen.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury you now know the carnage that this defendant left behind on the West Side of Charleston on Feb. 11, 2020,” Drummond said. “Imagine what terror Barbara Steele must of felt when a stranger pushed her into her home and killed her.”

Drummond said Drennen may have had some mental issues but the evidence shows he was making rational decisions during the one-day crime spree.

“It was purposeful. It was goal-oriented and he followed a path. He wasn’t out of control. He wasn’t wandering aimlessly,” Drummond said.

Drennen’s attorney John Sullivan told the jury that under the circumstances of the case the right verdict was ‘not guilty by reason of mental illness.’

“It’s not the things that he was saying. It’s not the fact that these strange religious proclamations where coming out of his mouth—it was the things he was doing,” Sullivan said.

But Kanawha County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Don Morris countered, telling the jury, someone suffering from religiosity doesn’t steal car keys and a checkbook after murdering a stranger.

“This was somebody who was on anger and on a rage-driven trip. And he wanted a car and he was declined and he killed her. He slaughtered her,” Morris said.

Morris concluded you can’t blame what happened on religion.

“Did the Holy Spirit tell him to kill? Kill? No. No,” Morris said.

If Drennen is found guilty of murder there will be a separate penalty phase of the trial where the jury will decide if he should be granted mercy on the murder conviction. Sullivan previously indicated Drennen may testify during phase.