RITCHIE COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The West Virginia State Trooper accused of domestic violence appeared in Ritchie County Court on Monday, March 13, for a preliminary hearing. The magistrate judge decided there was probable cause in a felony strangulation charge against the trooper to send the case to a grand jury.

The judge also had a pretrial hearing for a misdemeanor domestic battery charge, for which Joseph Comer pleaded not guilty. A trial date for the charge has not been set.

Comer is accused of domestic battery and felony strangulation in connection to two child custody exchanges in a hotel parking lot in Ritchie County, West Virginia, on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, 2022. The alleged victim testified during today’s hearing on behalf of the state.

In late February, Comer turned himself in after criminal complaint was filed against him. The charges were not filed until Feb. 23, the day before Comer was set to have a grievance hearing about concerns regarding the West Virginia State Police.

Comer’s Attorney, David Moye, said the charges filed against his client are retaliatory in nature because Comer previously brought attention to misconduct from the top ranks of the department. Attorney Moye said his client plans to sue.

In an exclusive interview with Colonel Jan Cahill, the West Virginia State Police Superintendent, said the charges were not filed in retaliation.

He said they knew the timing couldn’t have been worse, but new information surfaced in the case that lead them to believe that “… you just couldn’t sit on. You’re put on notice in this day and age and everyone in the world were on solid ground on that was no, there was no retaliation, no retribution.”

Meanwhile, an investigation continues into the West Virginia State Police administration, after a five-page anonymous letter was sent to Governor Jim Justice, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and a host of state lawmakers.

The most serious allegations include sexual assaults, thefts, and damage to state-owned property at the state police academy. Other accusations include a hidden camera in the women’s locker room, misuse of taxpayer funds, and some troopers billing for overtime they did not work.