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W.Va. child neglect case subject of TV broadcast

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A local case that involved charges of kidnapping, murder and child neglect will be featured on national TV starting today.

The trial of Ethan Chic-Colbert, the Charleston man convicted in the death of his girlfriend's 11-year-old son, will be aired on truTV.

Authorities said Chic-Colbert was viciously beating Lynitrah Woodson along Interstate 64 when her son, Jahlil Clements, tried to flag down help for his mother. Jahlil was struck and killed by a vehicle.

Television crews were in Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom's courtroom for the July trial, which ended with a guilty verdict on the child neglect charges for the 22-year-old.  

The trial will be broadcast on truTV's "In Session," which shows courtroom trials in their entirety. It will air 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and will continue through Nov. 21. The show does not air on weekends.

"The death of 11-year-old Jahlil Clements is a terrible tragedy for his family," Scott Tufts, executive producer for the show, said in an email. "Our audience will be intrigued with how the justice system handles cases like this."

Chic-Colbert initially was indicted on charges of murder in commission of a felony, kidnapping and several counts of child neglect.

The murder charge was stricken when Bloom dismissed the kidnapping charges.

The jury found Chic-Colbert, who had a long history of domestic violence-related arrests, guilty on child neglect charges. He is currently serving a six- to 30-year sentence.

Students at Malden Elementary, where Jahlil attended school, considered him a "big brother," Malden Principal Julie Sayre said in previous interviews. He mentored the younger students and was very respectful to his teachers. She said he loved playing sports and she often saw him on the playground after school.

"He was an all-around good kid," Sayre said.

The show also will feature interviews with key people involved in the trial. Kanawha Prosecutor Mark Plants and assistant prosecutors Dan Holstein and Tara Salango flew to Atlanta Wednesday to appear on the show.

The boy's mother also will appear on the show Thursday and Friday.

Plants said by telephone Wednesday that he was aware the trial was being taped for national broadcast but did not know he and the other prosecutors would be invited for interviews.

Plants said he thought West Virginians would be interested in watching the case unfold.

"More importantly, this case highlights a very important issue, and that's the effect domestic violence has on families," Plants said. "About 40 percent of domestic violence occurs in front of a child, and in this case a child lost his life.

"It doesn't just happen to females and it doesn't just affect females. This affects children and entire families."

He said their interviews likely would also air today's and Friday's shows.

This is not the first "In Session" featuring a West Virginia case.

Tufts said the show aired the trial of Army Private First Class Stephen "Mo" Wilson, who was on trial for the murder and robbery of the Rev. Mark McCalla of Highlawn Presbyterian Church in Huntington, in early 2010.

Wilson, a deserter from Ohio, was tried and convicted in December 2009.

He and Daniel Smith, another deserter also convicted on murder charges, were infantrymen in the Army's 10th Mountain Division and went AWOL from Fort Drum, N.Y., in May 2008. They were staying in Huntington with another soldier from Fort Drum when the incident occurred.

McCalla was shot and killed at Beech Fork Wildlife Management Area shooting range in June 2008. His wallet and two firearms were missing.

The two were captured at a bus station in Ohio and returned to West Virginia to stand trial. Smith was sentenced to life with mercy while Wilson was sentenced to 160 years in prison.

Wilson was in the news in July when he and two other inmates at Mount Olive Correctional Facility in Fayette County escaped. They were quickly located, and state officials said a "botched head count" led to their misplacement.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.



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