Cumberland Times-News

Local News

December 23, 2011

Body of dead woman found in cabin loft

Boyfriend says he blacked out, doesn’t recall alleged deadly altercation


PIN OAK, W.Va. — A woman who is believed to be the victim of a homicide that occurred in Morgan County was found by Hampshire County deputies early Friday morning in an abandoned cabin in the Eagle Mountain Subdivision.
Deputies Christopher Carroll and Joshua Kesner were contacted at 3:05 a.m. by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, which was conducting an investigation into the disappearance of James T. Zell Jr.’s girlfriend. The Morgan deputies said Zell had admitted to loading the victim’s body into his Chevrolet Blazer and taking her to a cabin in a remote portion of Hampshire County.
Hampshire deputies found a woman’s body in the loft of the cabin at 5:13 a.m. and said that it obviously had been there for several days. An autopsy is pending and the victim’s name will be released after the next of kin is notified, police said.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office had been contacted by a deputy from the Shenandoah County (Va.) Sheriff’s Office on Thursday with information about the possible homicide. Lt. Tim Stapleton and Chief Deputy Wade Shambaugh met with Zell at his home in Tri Lake Park and were told that he and his girlfriend had fought about two weeks ago.
Zell claimed that his girlfriend was picked up by someone in a blue car. Zell said he thought that she might have killed herself because she left her belongings and dog behind and had been depressed. 
Police learned later in the day that Zell had told family members he had killed his girlfriend and intended to kill himself.
Police picked up Zell in Chambersburg, Pa., and arrested him for driving under the influence. 
At about 2:15 a.m. Friday, Zell confessed that about two weeks before, he and his girlfriend were fighting. He told police that he blacked out after she punched him in the face several times and when he revived, his girlfriend was lying dead on the floor with fingerprints around her throat. 

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