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Two face trial in Donora drug death

| Friday, July 26, 2013, 1:50 p.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
State Constable James Smith escorts Maya Lawson and James Foster out of Magisterial District Judge Mark Wilson's office and back to the Washington County Correctional Facility on Thursday, July 25, 2013, where they faced a preliminary hearing on drug charges and drug delivery resulting in death stemming from the death of Barry Daube of Donora on May 17. Wilson held all charges for court.

Two Donora residents accused of selling a lethal dose of heroin to a borough man were ordered Thursday to stand trial in Washington County Court.

Maya Lawson, 30, and James Darnell Foster, 21, both of 233 Allen Ave. Rear, underwent a preliminary hearing Thursday in Monongahela before Magisterial District Judge Mark Wilson.

Charges against them stem from the May 17 death of Barry Daube, 55, who was found dead in his vehicle at the intersection of Fifth and Short streets in Donora.

Lawson is charged with drug delivery resulting in death, manufacture-delivery of a controlled substance, and 25 counts of possession of a controlled substance.

Foster faces 24 counts of possession of a controlled substance, and single counts of drug delivery resulting in death, manufacture-delivery of a controlled substance, hindering apprehension or prosecution, and tampering with/fabricating physical evidence.

Donora Patrolman Michael Parry testified that officers attempted to revive Daube with an automated external defibrilator, but the machine indicated, “no shock advised.”

Washington County Deputy Coroner Timothy Kegel pronounced Daube dead at the scene approximately an hour after police arrived, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Michael Stephany, who allegedly was with Daube prior to his death, told officers Daube went alone to purchase heroin that day, Parry said.

Stephany said that when Daube didn't return within five minutes, he looked for and eventually found the victim in the vehicle.

Parry testified that Ridge Daube – Barry Daube's nephew – found a syringe.

Parry said that Ridge Daube, not wanting to get his uncle in trouble, discarded the syringe in a thick, wooded area. The officer testified that police never found the syringe.

Investigators found Barry Daube's cell phone on his body, which was owned by his girlfriend, Cheri Bobin, Parry said.

Bobin was at the scene when Barry Daube's body was found, and she consented to a search of the phone.

Police discovered two calls had been made to a phone number traced to Lawson's residence. Parry said the calls were made near the time of Barry Daube's death.

Testifying that police were armed with a search warrant, Parry said that investigators had to use a battering ram to enter the residence.

“When we gained entry, Lawson was seen emerging from the back bedroom,” Parry told Assistant Washington County Assistant District Attorney John Friedmann.

“ ... We found Mr. Foster in his briefs, laying on the bed with his hands behind his back.

“We had the house surrounded, and found a discarded pair of sweatpants with stamp bags of suspected heroin in them.”

Parry added three children in the house were turned over to either grandparents or guardians.

Parry testified that the State Police Crime Lab in Greensburg confirmed the stamp bags contained heroin.

According to a criminal complaint, police found four cell phones, a small bag of suspected marijuana and Lawson's wallet, which contained additional stamp bags of heroin.

Foster – defending himself without the aid of an attorney – asked Parry who retrieved the cell phone from Barry Daube and how Stephany knew what time calls were made to the residence.

Answering questions from Friedmann, Lawson testified that she didn't see Barry Daube that day.

She said that Foster is her boyfriend, that she didn't see Foster and Barry Daube together that day, and that she was home all day.

“(Foster) called (Barry Daube) for a ride to the store,” Lawson testified. “I'm not really sure about the time, it was probably around 5 or 6 (p.m.).”

She testified that Barry Daube never called her residence the day of the death, adding she was on the back porch with her children and her sister and couldn't hear if the phone rang.

Asked if Foster provided heroin to Barry Daube, Lawson replied, “not that I know of.”

Lawson's attorney, Thomas Agrafiotis, asked if there was an agreement with his client for her testimony, and Friedmann replied that the testimony was not what Lawson indicated it would be.

“Because you didn't ask me the questions you said you were going to ask me,” Lawson told Friedmann. “Were those bags mine? No. Were those bags his? Yes. You never asked me.”

“She's testified that the bags were her co-defendant's,” Agrafiotis told Wilson. “There's no direct evidence against her. And with her cooperation, I ask that the charges be dismissed against her or her bond be reduced to unsecured.”

Friedmann did not opposed a bail reduction for Lawson.

Wilson reduced Lawson's bond from $50,000 to $25,000.

In a closing statment, Foster said the heroin was for his personal use.

“I pay for my habit, and I pay my bills,” he said. “I never sold anything to anybody, and (Barry Daube) never came to the residence.”

Wilson lowered Foster's bond from $100,000 to $50,000.

In the rear of the courtroom after the hearing, Lawson complained about being returned to the Washington County Correctional Facility, where she has been held since her arrest.

“I've been in jail for 60 days already,” Lawson told Agrafiotis.

“All these other people come through and get out with their unsecured bond. Why can't I?”

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2667.

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