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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Drug-related murders
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: May 19, 2012
Date of arrest: 9 days after
Date of birth: October 21, 1985
Victims profile: Steven Leroy Hendrix, his girlfriend, Amber Martin, and Hendrix’s two kids, Dakota, age six, and Kaylee, age four
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Leivasy, Nicholas County, West Virginia, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to four life sentences with no chance of parole on August 28, 2013

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Life in prison for Nicholas County murderer

By Travis Brinks -

August 29, 2013

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. – A Nicholas County man who killed four people last year will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Nicholas County Circuit Judge Gary Johnson sentenced James Roy Belknap, 27, to four life sentences without parole and without mercy Wednesday.

Belknap plead guilty last month to murdering Steven Leroy Hendrix, his girlfriend, Amber Martin, and Hendrix’s two kids, Dakota, age six, and Kaylee, age four. The plea came days before his trial was scheduled to begin August 13.

Police said after shooting all four victims, Belknap then stripped the bodies and dumped them near his Leivasy home. The bodies were found in May 2012 after they were reported missing.

Police said the crimes were all about a drug debt that was owed to Belknap.


Belknap gets four life terms in drug-related murders

By Wendy Holdren - Register-Herald Reporter

August 29, 2013

SUMMERSVILLE — In the last minutes of 6-year-old Dakota Hendrix’s life, he watched his father, Steven Hendrix, his father’s girlfriend, Amber Martin, and his 4-year-old sister Kaylee be shot to death by James Roy Belknap.

During the 27-year-old Leivasy man’s sentencing Wednesday, Nicholas County Prosecuting Attorney James “P.K.” Milam reviewed the statement Belknap gave to State Police Sgt. D.A. Evans.

Belknap was sentenced to four life sentences with no chance of parole.

Milam said Hendrix arrived in a van along with Martin and his two children, near Belknap’s house on May 19, 2012.

Belknap first shot Hendrix in the chest and then fired a second round into his head, while Martin yelled, “James, help the kids!”

Her final thoughts were about the safety of Kaylee and Dakota, as the gunman turned his weapon on her, and fired a single shot into her head.

Kaylee was killed by bullet fragments, as her brother watched from the back seat of the van.

Belknap started walking away from the van, but then turned back and killed his final victim, a 6-year-old boy who witnessed it all.

Police found the 2003 Chevy Venture van on May 25 and the following evening, they found the bodies of all four victims, stripped naked and dumped less than a mile away from Belknap’s residence.

“Look at me. Don’t look down,” Kelly Wickline said to Belknap, as she choked back tears before his sentencing Wednesday.

“I pray to God they haunt you.”

Wickline, along with many other family members of both Steven and Amber, came to hear the fate of the man who murdered four of their loved ones. Some of them were wearing screenprinted shirts with photos of Steven, Amber, Kaylee and Dakota.

“Do you think four lives is worth money and drugs?” Amber’s father Bruce Martin asked Belknap.

“I hope you pay for what the hell you did.”

Sherry Hendrix, Steven’s sister, calmly spoke to Belknap next.

“You took away my baby brother and my youngest niece and nephew. My mother had a nervous breakdown and I nearly lost her. You’ve devastated three mothers.”

She paused, and said, “Keep looking at me. I’m going to keep trying to forgive you, not for you, but to let go of the pain and hurt in my mind. I pray that you see them every night as they were before and after. I hope you live a long, healthy life behind bars. I pray not just for our family, but yours, too. I pray for them, too.”

Police reported during the investigation that Belknap owed Hendrix for drugs and the two “had been fighting about the payment.”

Belknap initially pleaded not guilty in January this year, but later made a plea bargain with the prosecutor’s office to plead guilty to the four murders, so the accessory charges against Carrie Nelson, 32, Wanda Einstein, 49, and Mark Haynes, 54, would be dropped.

Belknap had the opportunity to address the court Wednesday, but instead asked his attorney to apologize on his behalf.

“I’ve been here for 20 years,” Nicholas County Circuit Court Judge Gary Johnson said to Belknap, “and this is the most horrific, reprehensible act I’ve ever seen as a judge in this county.”

Judge Johnson said Belknap started out with marijuana, then cocaine, then prescription pills. Johnson said because of his drug use, Belknap contracted hepatitis C and other illnesses.

“I hope it’s a lesson to kids who think about using drugs.”

Johnson then handed down the four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

“I only regret that there’s nothing more I can do to ease the lives of the families of the children,” Johnson said.

He noted that there are over $20,000 in funeral bills and if the state ever seizes any of Belknap’s property, that money will be used toward restitution.

“He’ll pay,” Bruce Martin said after the judge delivered the sentence. “The good Lord will take care of him.”

Amber’s aunt, Dicie Hamrick, said she was satisfied with Belknap’s sentence, but it can’t bring her niece back.

“We miss her so much. She can’t be brought back, but this happened over drugs. If you’re on drugs, please get help, before you end up like this.”


13News Investigates: Who is James Belknap?

By David Iversen -

January 16, 2012

SUMMERSVILLE, West Virginia - In a Nicholas County Circuit Courtroom, James Belknap walked in slowly, his eyes quickly scanning the crowded galley, before returning to watch his shackled feet.

The 27-year-old Belknap was charged in May with shooting and killing Steven Hendrix, his two children, ages 4 and 6, and Amber Martin on his Leivasy property.

In a quiet voice, Belknap told Circuit Court Judge Gary Johnson that he was not guilty for the killings.

His trial is scheduled for April 16.

Since high school, Belknap's life has changed dramatically.

Belknap, by all accounts was a highly intelligent student at Richwood High School, where he graduated near the top of his class in 2004. Belknap was involved in several clubs including Future Business Leaders of America and was in the prom court.

High school friends say Belknap was quiet, but friendly. He was also known for partying.

A year later, Belknap was arrested and charged with murder. Belknap was accused of helping his father, Kenneth Belknap burn the body of Richard Parnell. Parnell was shot once in the head and once in the chest with a shotgun. As the investigation went on, Kenneth Belknap admitted to the killing. James Belknap was accused of helping dispose of the body. The statement provided to police states that James Belknap was not there at the time of the killing.

Police tried to charge Belknap with accessory to murder, but West Virginia state law states that a family member cannot be charged with accessory. Belknap had to be cleared of the crime. He would spend a year behind bars on drug charges.

His father remains incarcerated at Mount Olive Correctional Facility.

Then, in May 2012, Steven Hendrix brought his family to the Nicholas County Belknap property to confront James Belknap over a drug debt. The two adults and two children would be found shot dead and dumped naked.

Belknap maintains his innocence, at least in part, to the crimes. Friends say they were shocked by the children's death, but not that Belknap was involved.

"The thing that shocked was those kids being killed, nothing else about it surprised me," said a woman who knows Belknap intimately. 13News agreed to hide her identity.

The woman said that Belknap was much more involved in the 2005 shooting than even police know. She claims Belknap was carrying the shotgun that was used in the Parnell killing just after Parnell's time of death, an impossibility if the official narrative is to be believed.

13News has new details into the case of James Belknap. Stay tuned for more on this developing story.


Quadruple murder suspect also charged in 2005 murder investigation

By David Iversen -

May 30, 2012

SUMMERSVILLE, West Virginia - James Roy Belknap stands accused in four murders in Nicholas County. The bodies were discovered Saturday in Leivasy. Police allege the murders were drug related.

It's not the first time Belknap, 26, has faced murder charges.

Court records show Belknap was charged in the 2005 murder death of Richard Parnell.

In July 2005, Parnell, Belknap and his father Kenneth Belknap went to a White Buck Knob residence in Leivasy after getting cocaine. Kenneth Belknap argued that some of the cocaine was missing. After Parnell was forced from the car at gunpoint, he was put in a shed, described in court records by Belknap as a pigpen. There, he was shot in the head and chest with a 12-gauge shotgun. The shed was then lit on fire and kept burning for two days. James Belknap helped his father attempt to burn the body.

At the crime scene, police found only bone fragments and bullet shells. They built their case largely on statements by the Belknaps.

Kenneth Belknap admitted to the crime. He is currently serving a life sentence with mercy for the killing. The kidnapping charge was dropped.

In a plea agreement with then prosecuting attorneys Jonathan Sweeney and Mark Hudnall, James Belknap plead guilty only to drug charges. The murder and kidnapping charges were dismissed.

A letter from Parnell's mother dated August 27, 2006 details her displeasure with the prosecutor over the plea deal, saying the plea happened too easily.

"It just seems to us that you don't even want to put up a fight against [sic] Defense Attorney Chris Moorehead. We would like to state that we feel that your office is not, has not given this your best effort," Parnell said in the letter.

Statements given by James Belknap remain sealed by Judge Gary Johnson.

James Belknap's former attorney, Paul Williams, now works for the prosecutor's office.

Former Prosecuting Attorney Mark Hudnall, who is now in private practice, declined comment for this story.


James Belknap, charged in quadruple W.Va. murders, allegedly motivated by drugs

May 29, 2012

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A man charged Monday with killing four people - including two young children - whose bodies were found in a wooded part of central West Virginia was allegedly motivated by a fight over drug money, authorities said.

James Belknap was arrested Monday and faces four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Steven Hendrix, his girlfriend Amber Martin, and two children, said West Virginia State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous.

According to the criminal complaint, police received information from several people about how Belknap and Hendrix were in a fight over drugs, reports CBS affiliate WOWK.

The investigation reportedly found that Belknap owed Hendrix money for drugs, the complaint states, and that Hendrix likely went to Belknap's property in an attempt to collect the money.

Belknap was arrested at a roadblock not far from a crime scene that Baylous described as "gruesome." He declined to elaborate but added that investigating officers said it was one of the worst crime scenes they had ever seen, in part, because two of the victims were children.

"These guys are going to have a hard time dealing with all this," Baylous said.

Baylous confirmed that the bodies found Saturday were those of a man, his girlfriend and two children, ages 6 and 4, who have been missing since May 19.

Police said the bodies were found about a mile from where the Hendrix's missing 2003 Chevy Venture van was discovered Friday night.

Belknap and the victims were "acquaintances," Baylous said, but he was unable to elaborate.

Another man who was driving the car that was stopped at the roadblock was charged with obstructing an officer and accessory after the fact to murder, Baylous said. That man, Mark Haynes, 53, and Belknap are both from the Leivasy area in Nicholas County, but Baylous was unsure how they knew each other.


Suspect captured in Nicholas County quadruple homicide

By Jessie Shafer -

May 28, 2012

The suspect in four murders in Nicholas County was arrested Monday evening.

James Roy Belknap was captured after attempting to drive through a checkpoint near the town of Carl. He is accused of killing Steven Hendrix, his girlfriend, Amber Martin, and his two children. They had been missing since May 19.

"It appears he was just trying to go through the checkpoint without being noticed," said 1st Sgt. Michael Baylous, West Virginia State Police spokesman. "Obviously he was, and he was taken into custody without incident. However, the driver did obstruct the troopers."

Belknap was the passenger in the S-10 pickup truck. The driver, Mark Haynes, was also arrested there.

Police charged Haynes with obstructing an officer and being an accessory to murder after the fact.

Troops said the U.S. Marshals Service and other departments came together to search for Belknap, and they are glad they got the man accused of what they call the four murders.

"We're just very relieved and the public should be relieved as well to know that these agencies came together and they performed their duties and they performed them admirably," said Baylous.

Belknap remained silent and stared down at the ground and answered no questions as he was escorted to a State Police car, barefoot.

One resident of a nearby town was scared to leave her home when Belknap was still on the run.

"A lot of people are freaking out and in shock," Nichole Carr, of Rupert. "They are locking their doors. We don't know what's going on."

Police said the murder scene was something they cannot even describe.

"I can't even go into details of the crime scene," Baylous said. "One of the troopers I talked to said this has been one of the worst incidences that he's ever responded to. It was so horrific that it's just not suitable for me to give you those kinds of details."

Even though the suspect is in custody, the investigation will continue.

"You might think that just because an arrest has been made, that we can sit back and relax now," Baylous said. "But they have a lot of work still ahead of them to conduct an investigation and do a thorough job."

Police received information from several people about how Belknap and Hendrix were in a fight over drugs, according to the criminal complaint. The investigation found that Belknap owed Hendrix money for drugs, according to the complaint. The investigation found that Hendrix likely went to Belknap's property to attempt to collect the money.

The bodies were found May 25 near Belknap's home, according to the criminal complaint. The victims were intentionally killed, stripped of their clothing and dumped over the side of a mountain.

Belknap and Haynes were arraigned Monday evening in Nicholas County Magistrate Court.

Troopers said Belknap is being held without bond in Central Regional Jail.



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