Plea hearing rescheduled in Stewart case

Sarah Hawley

January 26, 2014

POMEROY — The case against Brenda Stewart is now scheduled for a change of plea hearing for the fourth time in as many weeks.

Brenda A. Stewart, 43, appeared in court on Wednesday morning alongside her attorney David Baer.

Following a brief time in chambers with Judge I. Carson Crow, Baer and Prosecutor Colleen Williams returned to the court room.

Baer noted that a resolution in the case had been proposed and a plea hearing was set for 3 p.m. on Jan. 29.

Judge Crow also stated that the jury trial scheduled for Feb. 20 would be a firm date, meaning the case is likely to be concluded at that time if not resolved by a plea agreement before that time.

Stewart is facing four felony charges in connection with crimes alleged to have occurred at her residence from June-Sept. 2013.

She is charged with one count each illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, a felony of the first degree; illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine, a felony of the second degree; rape, a felony of the first degree; and endangering children, a felony of the third degree.

Her husband, Joseph G. Stewart, 39, is charge with eight felony counts in an indictment filed in November.

He is charged with five counts of rape, each one a felony of the first degree; one count of illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, a felony of the first degree; illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine, a felony of the second degree; and sexual battery, a felony of the third degree.

According to the indictment, the methamphetamine-related charges occurred on or about Aug. 21, while the rape charges occurred from June 30 to Aug. 18.

The indictment alleges that from June 30, 2013, to Aug. 18, 2013, Stewart did engage in sexual conduct with another when he purposely compelled the other person to submit by force or threat of force.

The charge of sexual battery in the indictment states that no person shall engage in sexual conduct with another, not the spouse of the offender, when he is either the other person’s natural or adoptive parent.

Joseph Stewart is scheduled for a jury trial on Feb. 6. He is represented by attorney Michael Huff.

Both Joseph and Brenda Stewart remain in custody of the Meigs County Sheriff awaiting future court appearances. Bond for Joseph Stewart is $500,000 and bond for Brenda Stewart is $500,000 with 10 percent allowed.

The Stewarts were arrested Aug. 21 following the discovery of a methamphetamine lab at 60 1/2 Cole Street in Middleport.

At that time, deputies, along with Department of Jobs and Family Services Children Services workers interviewed a minor female who alleged forced sexual abuse by her step-father, Joseph G. Stewart. After interviewing the minor child’s mother, Brenda A. Stewart, along with the step-father, it was determined sexual abuse had occurred, according to law enforcement.

Middleport Police Chief Bruce Swift and Sheriff Keith Wood have said officers with both departments responded to 60 1/2 Cole Street following up on a tip received through Meigs County Children Services regarding a methamphetamine lab and possible sexual abuse of a minor at the residence.

The Stewarts live in an apartment at that address, according to Swift.

While searching the residence, deputies allegedly located a one-pot reactionary vessel and white powder which tested positive for methamphetamine, along with chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine.

The apartment building with around 25 residents — including some children according to the sheriff — had to be evacuated due to the dangers from the methamphetamine lab.

Once the lab was neutralized and the building cleared of the chemicals, residents were allowed to return to their homes.