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Police: Killer trio repeatedly stabs victim, sets body on fire, and dumps it in woods

Three Maryland men were recently charged in West Virginia with kidnapping and murder after authorities reportedly found a deceased man’s body on fire.

On March 18, Jefferson County police responded to Ward Clipp roads in Rippon, West Virginia, amid reports of a body on fire. There, they extinguished Jonathan Riddle’s partially-burning body and discovered he had several puncture marks and injuries to his face and body, according to the Carroll County Times.

Police reportedly discovered Riddle in a wooded area about 40 feet from the road. A large pool of blood on the road trailed to his barefoot body. The Times reported that investigators believe Riddle was alive when he was brought to Jefferson County.

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Charging documents stated that the FBI used fingerprint records to identify Riddle as the decedent. An autopsy stated that his cause of death was various stab wounds and blunt force trauma to the head. His death was ruled a homicide.

On March 17, Riddle was reportedly at David Sanford Jr.’s home in Westminster, Maryland, to meet a woman. An informant told authorities that they witnessed Riddle fighting with Monroe Merrell, 22, in Sanford’s home before Merrell restrained Riddle and ordered Sanford, 26, to stab Riddle, according to charging documents.

The Carroll County Times reported that the informant claimed they saw Sanford stab Riddle twice in the stomach. Riddle’s feet were reportedly bound with a sheet as he attempted to escape.

Multiple people reportedly witnessed the fatal attack, including John Black III, 22, who the informant claimed helped transport Riddle’s body. Black allegedly also said he stabbed Riddle several times.

The informant said Riddle was still alive when he was brought to West Virginia  — where he was stabbed multiple times and set on fire to conceal evidence.

During their investigation, police linked a 2015 Chevrolet Malibu with Maryland license plates to the slaying. The vehicle led them to Merrell, who police noted had a small cut on his hand.

The Carroll County Times reported that a bloodstain was found inside the vehicle. It’s unclear who owns the vehicle or how authorities linked it to Riddle’s murder.

Sanford, Black, and Merrell were charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping. They remain jailed without bond.

The Carroll County Times noted that in 2017, Merrell took an Alford plea for kidnapping a woman at knifepoint in 2016. He was sentenced to 20 years with all but five years suspended.

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[Featured image: John Black III, Monroe Merrell, and David Sanford Jr./Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office]