Defendant says a sex tape proves he was not in War when the mayo - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Guilty Verdict Handed Down in McDowell Murder Case

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A verdict is reached in the murder trial for Earl Click in McDowell County.

A  jury found Click guilty in the murder of Former War Mayor Thomas Hatcher.

Hatcher was found dead after police say he was smothered.

Click was found guilty of both first degree murder with mercy and felony conspiracy.

Click's mother, Tammy Shortridge, left the courtroom crying saying her children are innocent.

"I know he didn't do it. For my family it means heartbreak," said Shortridge.

Prosecuting Attorney Ed Kornish said witness testimony proved Earl Click's guilt based on what he DID and SAID after the murder.

"We don't pick our witnesses. We went and talked to his friends and they're the ones based on what he told them... he was bragging about killing the mayor and then he went and burnt the clothes that he had on when he did it," said Kornish.

The prosecution called one important witness, Misty Laws, who testified that the sex tape Earl Click mentioned as his alibi never existed.

"You'd have to ask the jury whether it was necessary or not but I think it pretty much took the wind out of his alibi," said Kornish.

Click's mother stands by her son's story and says her testimony was the truth.

"If I thought for one minute that he did it or my other daughter did it I would say lock them up and throw away the key... I love my children and I would die for my children but I would not lie for my children," said Shortridge.

Kornish said the verdict today brings a little more closure to Tom Hatcher's family.

"This obviously doesn't bring Tom back for them but it hopefully will bring them a little peace," said Kornish.

In West Virginia, first degree murder holds a life sentence in prison.
The jury found Click guilty with mercy which means he will be up for parole after 15 years.


Defendant Earl Click told the court Tuesday morning when he took the stand he was at his apartment in Grundy, Virginia the night Tom Hatcher was supposedly killed in McDowell County.

Defense Attorney Ron Hassan asked Click a series of questions about what he was doing the night of July 16, 2012 when Tom Hatcher died.

Click told the court he was partying at his apartment complex with some friends and around 3 a.m. he and a female also living there went into a vacant room and had sex.

Earl said the woman filmed the two in the bedroom for about an hour that morning, and there is no way he was in War that night.

Click responded, "No," when Hassan asked him if he killed Tom Hatcher or if he knew who did kill Tom.

Click told the court after he was arrested he asked his mother, Tammy Shortridge to go to the Appalachian Inn and get the tape from the girl so he could prove he was not in War that night.

Shortridge testified she went to the apartment, met the girl, saw the tape, and even offered the girl $500 for the tape.

Shortridge said she watched the girl destroy the tape before she could get her hands on it.

The woman who supposedly made the sex tape was subpoenaed to testify in the trial. She told prosecutor Ed Kornish last week she had received death threats if she were to come in and testify.  The girl is also wanted on several felony charges out of Virginia and would have been arrested if she were to show up to court in McDowell County.

Click also testified about a burn pile brought up previously in the trial.

Prosecutor Ed Kornish said Earl Click burned a pair of boots and clothing after Tom Hatcher was killed.  Click testified his Uncle Roy Hardy asked him to burn the bag of clothes because he was out stealing copper the previous night.

Defense Attorney Hassan asked Click if he ever owned a pair of boots like the ones found, he said no.  He also asked Click if he wore the same size of the boots that were found, he said no to that as well.

The defense will wrap up their case Wednesday morning with a final witness.



After about 30 witnesses, the prosecution laid their case to rest Monday morning.

Prosecuting attorney Ed Kornish called his final witness to the stand, Investigating Deputy Mark Shelton with the McDowell County Sheriff's Department.

Shelton confirmed for the court that he became suspicious at the scene when deputies realized Tom's money clip was missing from his pants pocket where he always kept it.

After the prosecution rested their case, the defense began by calling Tom Hatcher's medical doctor to the stand.

Doctor Buenafe told the court about all of Tom's chronic illnesses like COPD, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and his obesity.

Click's defense attorney is trying to prove because of his age and health problems, Tom Hatcher died of natural causes.  The defense also called a paramedic to the stand who was dispatched to Tom Hatcher's house when he was found dead.

Moving on to more witnesses, the defense called two of Earl Click's family members who said they were with Earl and his codefendant and sister Rebecca Hatcher the day before and after Tom's death.

Before the prosecutor could finish cross-examination with Click's mother, Tammy Shortridge, a motion put the court into recess.

Judge Stephens said there is an issue with one piece of possible evidence he needs to look into before continuing on.

Earl Click told the court Monday he will be testifying in the case. He is expected to take the stand Tuesday.



Friday, Jan. 31 the prosecution called even more witnesses to the stand.

The two big witnesses to testify were Tom Hatcher's sister and an investigating deputy from the McDowell County Sheriff's Department.

The morning started off with several witnesses testifying about Tom Hatcher's bank accounts and certain transactions made with his bank card in the weeks before he was found dead.

A manager of a gambling parlor testified that Tom's card had been used there.  Another manager of a Rite Aid store in the War area told the court Tom Hatcher's card had been used there for cash withdrawals and also returns. The manager confirmed it was Tom's daughter-in-law Rebecca Hatcher that made the purchases.

The prosecution said Earl Click's sister and co-defendant Rebecca Hatcher used Tom's card for cash withdrawals dozens of times without his authorization. They said Tom would call the stores after he realized the money was gone to find out when the transaction was made.

Much of the testimony Friday continued to focus on Rebecca Hatcher and her relationship with Tom.

Pete Hawkins, a neighbor of Tom's testified that he came over to the house the day before Tom was found dead to use their shower. He told the court Rebecca let him use Tom's shower and she was in the room when he came to the house.

Jerry Roncella, Tom Hatcher's sister spoke extensively about Tom's finances.  She took over Tom Hatcher's estate when he passed.  After his death, she said she began looking into his bank statements and found a number of questionable charges.     

She said there were several purchases that would not have been made by Tom. One she found and confirmed through the company, was a check written to a loan company making a car payment for the account of Rebecca Hatcher's mother. Another mysterious charge was for toys delivered to Rebecca's sister.

And Roncella said she also found what she believed to be forged checks by Becky.

"That's not his signature and that is not how he made his 2's," Roncella told the court.

Wrapping up the day was deputy Blevins who was an McDowell County Sheriff's Department investigating officer in the case.  He confirmed for the court what was found at the crime scene, and how they were lead to arrest Earl Click and Rebecca Hatcher.

Deputy Blevins testified that he became suspicious in Tom Hatcher's bedroom when he found a plastic bag on the bed and also his money clip had gone missing.

Blevins said they had enough evidence to arrest Click when his uncle, Roy Hardy came to police and confessed that Click told him he smothered Tom Hatcher in his sleep.

Click's sister Rebecca Hatcher was also charged in the crime.
She was found not guilty of first degree murder in late November 2013.
So far, Rebecca Hatcher's trial outcome has not been revealed to Earl Click's jury.
Judge Stephens said Friday he was going to review the law and make a decision as to whether or not that would be revealed on Monday.

Monday morning the prosecution will call more witnesses and possibly the defense will call theirs Monday as well.



Earl Click's trial continued Thursday in front of Judge Stephens with more witnesses being called to the stand by the prosecution.

The first day of Earl Click's trial, Prosecuting Attorney Ed Kornish called Click's uncle and room-mate Roy Hardy to the stand.

Wednesday afternoon, Hardy testified that his nephew, Earl Click told him he killed Tom Hatcher in the early morning hours of July 17th.  Kornish also called Click and Hardy's neighbors to the stand.     

The two neighbors told the court they drove Earl Click to a remote location outside of War where he dumped some clothing and boots and burned them.  Those burned items were recovered and Thursday the prosecution called forensic investigators to the stand.

Investigators told the court remnants of steel toed boots were recovered at the scene.  Kornish then called Tom Hatcher's neighbor, Patty Hawkins.

Hawkins testified that she heard Tom and his daughter-in-law Rebecca Hatcher in a heated argument the day before he was found dead.  Rebecca Hatcher is defendant Earl Click's sister.

Finally, the prosecution called expert witness Dr. Haikel who performed an autopsy on Tom Hatcher.  She said the cause of death was ruled oxygen deprivation by assault.

Dr. Haikel testified Hatcher's death was ruled a homicide because of injuries found on his face that show he ran out of oxygen by being smothered.

The trial will continue with more witnesses being called by the prosecution Friday morning.



The trial of Earl Click began in front of Judge Stephens Wednesday morning.

A jury was chosen in the morning hours and the state and the defense began with opening statements in the afternoon.

Earl Click, 28, is accused of murdering his sister's father-in-law, Tom Hatcher.

Hatcher was the mayor of War in McDowell County at the time.

In opening statements, the prosecution began by telling the jury what they believe happened the day Tom Hatcher was found dead in July of 2012.

Prosecuting Attorney Ed Kornish briefed the jury on evidence that would be revealed and told them, "If you find Earl Click guilty it would be based on what he said and what he did after Tom Hatcher was found dead."

The defense followed by telling jurors Tom Hatcher died of natural causes as he intends to prove using medical records and autopsy results.

The prosecution also called their first witness to the stand, Earl Click's uncle, Roy Hardy who he lived with at the time.

Click's sister Rebecca Hatcher was also charged in the crime.
She was found not guilty of first degree murder in late November 2013.
She was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder, which the jury was hung on.
Her trial in that charge will be at the end of February.

Click's trial will resume Thursday morning.
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