Man indicted in wife’s death
Violet Burns had a premonition her granddaughter was in danger and warned her not to go to West Virginia with her estranged husband.
Mandy Lynn King, 20, who laughed off her grandmother’s fears that day nearly three years ago, never returned home to Plum. Mandy Lynn’s estranged husband later said she died when he swerved to miss a deer and their vehicle hit a tree.
A federal grand jury didn’t buy that story and this week indicted Nathaniel J. King on a charge of interstate domestic violence for taking Mandy Lynn from Pennsylvania to West Virginia with the intent of harassing, intimidating or killing her.
The indictment also states that he strangled her, Thomas E. Johnston, U.S. attorney for northern West Virginia, said Friday.
King, now 24 and living in Charleston, S.C., is expected to surrender soon to federal prosecutors in Elkins.
Burns and her husband, Harry, of Plum, are convinced their granddaughter died because of a child support dispute.
“I said, ‘Mandy, don’t go with him. You might think I’m crazy, but I have a feeling something is going to happen to you,'” Violet Burns said last night. “She laughed and said, ‘Oh, Gram, you worry too much.'”
Mandy Lynn’s body was found outside the wreckage of a sport utility vehicle on Aug. 16, 2001, along a rural Preston County road near Coopers Rock. The crash occurred seven days before the couple was scheduled to attend a child support hearing for their daughter.
King told police that a deer ran out and that the only thing he could do was swerve. The 1993 Ford Explorer King had borrowed from a co-worker at a Monroeville hotel ran into a ditch and struck a tree.
The couple’s daughter, Skyler Rae King, who was 9 months old at the time, was not injured. King was treated for shock at a Morgantown hospital.
An autopsy showed that Mandy Lynn died of asphyxiation due to strangulation and the death was ruled a homicide.
Johnston, who was not in office at the time of Mandy Lynn’s death, would not say why the indictment took so long. Neither he nor Ron Brown, the prosecuting attorney of Preston County, would discuss details of the case.
“We agreed for federal authorities to take over the investigation primarily because a good portion of the investigation took place across interstate lines in Pennsylvania,” Brown said.
Harry Burns said Mandy Lynn and King met while attending the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, Downtown, and married in May 2000. The couple lived rent-free on one side of the Burns’ duplex on Maple Street in Plum.
Skyler was born on Nov. 11, 2000, but the couple separated in February 2001, Violet Burns said.
She said King rarely visited Mandy Lynn and often complained about the prospect of paying child support.
“Little Mandy told us that he told her he would never pay her child support,” Harry Burns said.
Violet Burns said Mandy Lynn told her that King became angry when he received a letter to appear for the domestic relations hearing.
When King suddenly began insisting that Mandy Lynn and Skyler accompany him to West Virginia to visit his mother, Violet Burns said she immediately became suspicious.
“He stayed away for four or five months and all of a sudden wanted to go to West Virginia to show his mother the babyâ¢ I just had a feeling,” Violet Burns said.
“The last my wife saw her, Mandy was walking outside, carrying the baby, and hollered back, ‘Gram, we’ll be OK,’ ” Harry Burns said.
Violet Burns, who said the grand jury began hearing testimony in December, said the Coopers Rock exit is one exit past the one King would normally take to go to his mother’s house.
“The (prosecutor) told us he has a feeling that (King) took her out in the woods where something happened,” Violet Burns said. “He brought her back (to the SUV) and hit a tree. She was found outside, her legs covered with mud and scratches,” Violet Burns said.
She said Mandy Lynn’s parents adopted Skyler.
“We’re help take care of her and baby-sit her during the day while my son and daughter-in-law are working,” Harry Burns said.
In some ways, Skyler reminds Burns and his wife of their granddaughter.
“Mandy Lynn was like a daughter to me,” Violet Burns said. “She was my first granddaughter. She was always over our house.”