New details emerged in the murder of social worker Brenda Lee Yeager during a prelimianry hearing yesterday. Yeager was killed July 30 while making an home visit in Cabell County.
West Virginia State Police say Yeager, 51, was killed in a rural and secluded area south of Huntington. She was a social worker, and had come to the house on Mount Union Road for a scheduled home visit. She wanted to check on Steven Foster Jr. and Rosemary Forney's infant.
Yeager's body was found two days later in her car that had been set on fire.
Rosemary Forney and her boyfriend Steven Foster, Jr., are charged with Yeager's murder. Police believe Foster's father, Steven Foster, Sr., helped to try to hide the body, and he is charged with third-degree arson and unlawful disposal of a body, among other charges.
Foster Jr. and Foster Sr. waived their right to preliminary hearings on Monday. Forney opted to go ahead with her hearing.
West Virginia State Police Trooper James Kirk took the stand to testify about what Forney had told police.
He said she was afraid that the social worker was going to take away her child. He testified that Forney said that her boyfriend hid with a frying pan while he waited Yeager to arrive.
Foster Jr. did hit Yeager, but when she did not black out; the two took her by knifepoint into a bedroom.
Trooper Kirk said that's when Forney told him that Foster sexually assaulted Yeager. Then, they both suffocated her with a pillow.
These new disturbing details came out in court for the first time, but Cabell County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Chiles says he intends to release only enough information to move forward with the prosecutions.
“Certainly we felt like it was appropriate to have the hearing and to introduce, you know we put on as little evidence as we felt we needed too because we don’t intend to try this case in the press, we intend to try it in court. Right now of course the defendant is presumed innocent and we’ll proceed from their to the grand jury, but we feel comfortable with our case,” Chiles says.
Forney, Foster, Jr., and Foster, Sr., are being held at the Western Regional Jail. Brenda Yeager's family declined to speak to the media at the courthouse on Monday. Chiles spoke on their behalf.
“I met with this morning for about an hour before coming down here to the hearing and then met with them briefly after the hearing and they’re doing very well. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for them. I’ve done this 28 years, I’ve met with far too many families of victims in murder cases and I still can’t begin to imagine the hurt,” says Chiles.
Sam Hickman has also been in touch with Yeager's family. He's the director of the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. He says he and the family are speaking to legislators about improving safety precautions for social workers so this won’t happen again.
“I’ve spoken to her daughter and the one thing they are clear about is that they don’t want any other family to have to go through what they’re going through," Hickman says. "We have been in touch with members of the legislature, not about anything specific at this point, but just to launch an investigation about what can be done to keep social workers and other professionals who are involved in, in home visitation and provision of services to keep them safe."
Brenda Lee Yeager's funeral is scheduled for 1 pm Tuesday in her hometown of Hamlin.