3. Abduction of 8-year-old girl by murder suspect leads to manhunt by ground and air.
A manhunt was launched on April 12 for Tracey Lee Atwell, 38, of Spanishburg, after the man allegedly murdered his wife and abducted his daughter.
An extensive search started on April 12 after the body of Christina Marie Atwell, 33, was found at her home on Browning School Road in Rock. Investigators estimated that she had been murdered sometime between April 9 and April 11.
On April 12, Atwell arrived at his parents’ home on Beckley Road in Camp Creek, admitted to killing his wife, then bound his parents and left the area with his 8-year-old daughter, Porsche. Atwell fled with her in a white 1999 Jeep Laredo.
An Amber Alert also was issued for the missing girl, and a manhunt by both air and ground was launched by area authorities. Troopers with the West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, and other agencies combed the region by both ground and air. Atwell was arrested on April 14 while traveling near the intersection of Nubbins Ridge Road and Egeria Road along the Mercer and Raleigh County line. His daughter Porsche was found safe.
Tracey Atwell was arrested on one charge of murder involving the death of his wife, armed robbery, kidnapping, concealment of a child and grand larceny.
4. Long-time McDowell County mayor murdered, two charged in investigation.
Although a local historian and educator, Tom Hatcher was perhaps best known for his public service, including his 15 years of work as mayor of the city of War. Hatcher was found dead on July 17 by city employees who had come to check on him after the mayor did not show up for work at city hall — something Hatcher would do as mayor on a daily basis.
Police launched an investigation into Hatcher’s death, and later charged his daughter-in-law, Rebecca Hatcher, 31, of War, and her brother, Earl Click, 26, of Grundy, Va. Investigators allege Rebecca Hatcher and Click stole $1,100 from the mayor before killing him, according to the original criminal complaint against the two.
During a preliminary hearing for the two in July, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ed Kornish said a plastic bag had been found next to Thomas Hatcher’s head on the bed. Marks on his head were consistent with a struggle. Kornish said suffocation could have been a primary or secondary cause of death along with a heart attack.
The investigation into Hatcher’s death continues. The case against Click and Rebecca Hatcher has not yet been presented to the McDowell County grand jury.