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Judge dismisses murder charge in 2019 Franklin County homicide case

Judge dismisses murder charge in 2019 Franklin County homicide case

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A judge has dismissed the murder case against a Martinsville man accused late last year in a Franklin County homicide.

Derry Dee Finney, 36, was charged Dec. 6 in the death of James Edward Kirby and with the unauthorized use of Kirby’s 2007 Jaguar.

Kirby, 68, of Rocky Mount, was found dead in his home on Mamie Street late on Nov. 29. He died by manual strangulation, according to a medical examiner’s report, and his car had gone missing. Finney was an acquaintance of Kirby’s and an investigation led police to question him later that same night in Martinsville. Kirby’s car was also found at Finney’s home and Finney was arrested later that week.

At a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Franklin County General District Court, prosecutors called a Rocky Mount officer who, along with another of Kirby’s friends, found Kirby’s body just before 10 p.m. that night, as well as an investigator who later interviewed Finney. The investigator said Finney acknowledged taking the car without permission, but also claimed he’d left Kirby’s house around dusk and had intended to return.

Prosecutors also presented video from Kirby’s home security camera that showed Finney leaving the Mamie Street house with the car about 9:50 p.m., around the same time the home’s alarm system drew police to the house. It was not made clear during the hearing when exactly Kirby died.

“There’s no indication he actually killed Mr. Kirby,” defense attorney Ed Cooley argued, and Judge George Jones concurred.

“It’s very thin probable cause,” Jones said in court. “If that’s all you’ve got, it’s a very thin murder case.”

While Jones threw out that charge, he did certify the vehicle offense, which will be taken up by a grand jury next month. At that session, prosecutors could still seek to directly indict Finney for the homicide.

“We’re evaluating our options,” Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney A.J. Dudley said after Wednesday’s hearings.

As of Wednesday evening, Finney was still listed as being held without bond in the Western Virginia Regional Jail.

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