CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Melanie Clodfelter, 41, of Summersville, pleaded guilty today to making a false statement in acquisition of a firearm. Clodfelter admitted to purchasing a semi-automatic firearm that was subsequently used to kill a Nicholas County deputy sheriff in June 2022.
According to court documents and statements made in court, on November 17, 2021, Clodfelter bought a Radical Firearms, model RF-15, multi-caliber rifle in Nicholas County. Clodfelter admitted to lying on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Federal Firearms Transaction Records Form 4473 for the purchase. Clodfelter falsely certified that she was the buyer of the firearm when she knew she was purchasing it for Richie Holcomb. Clodfelter admitted to giving Holcomb the firearm on the day of the purchase. Clodfelter further admitted that Holcomb gave her the money to buy the firearm and that she knew Holcomb was prohibited from possessing a firearm because he had a prior felony conviction.
Federal law prohibits a person with a prior felony conviction from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Holcomb was prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a felony conviction for unlawful wounding in Webster County Circuit Court on July 30, 2014.
On June 3, 2022, law enforcement officers responded to a domestic disturbance in the Birch River area and encountered Holcomb and another individual. During the encounter, Holcomb fatally shot Nicholas County Deputy Sheriff Thomas Edward Baker III with the semi-automatic rifle purchased and provided by Clodfelter. Corporal Joshua Ellison was wounded in the exchange of gunfire. Holcomb was fatally shot.
“It is a crime to certify that you are buying a firearm for yourself when you are purchasing it for someone else, regardless of the circumstances,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “Straw purchasers illegally put firearms in the wrong hands. In this case, the firearm was given to a dangerous felon and that led to tragic consequences.”
Clodfelter is scheduled to be sentenced on February 16, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which assisted the Nicholas County Sheriff’s Office and the West Virginia State Police in response to the shooting of the two deputies.
Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorneys Negar M. Kordestani and Alex Hamner have prosecuted the case.