Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 21, 2012

McDowell police: Mayor slain; 2 charged

WELCH — Two people have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of long-time War Mayor Tom Hatcher.

Hatcher’s daughter-in-law, Rebecca Lynn Hatcher, 31, of War and her brother, Earl Click, 26, originally of War and now of Grundy, Va., have both been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Hatcher’s death, according to Deputy Ron Blevins of the McDowell County Sheriff’s Department.

Blevins said deputies with the McDowell County Sheriff’s Department working in conjunction with agents with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations unit located and arrested Rebecca Hatcher and Click late Thursday night. Rebecca Hatcher was arrested in War and Click was taken into custody in Grundy, Va.

During a press conference Friday, Chief Deputy Mark Shelton declined to release a cause of death. Investigators may receive a report from the State Medical Examiner’s Office by Monday, he said.

Money taken from Hatcher’s home could be a partial motive behind his murder, Shelton said.

“After killing Mr. Hatcher, the two individuals did steal, take and carry away approximately $1,100 U.S. currency,” Shelton said in both arrest reports filed at the McDowell County Magistrate Clerk’s Office.

When asked if drugs were involved in the case, Shelton replied that it was “most likely” that the money was taken in order to purchase drugs.

Rebecca Hatcher was arraigned Friday morning before McDowell County Magistrate Richard VanDyke. She is being held without bond pending a hearing before a circuit court judge. A bond hearing could be conducted Monday or Tuesday.

Blevins said McDowell County authorities are working to extradite Click back to West Virginia. He is currently being held at the South-west Virginia Regional Jail in Haysi, Va.

Hatcher was found dead shortly before noon on Tuesday by city employees after he did not appear for work. Blevins said authorities expected foul play from the beginning.

Blevins said additional charges are pending in the case, which will be presented to the next session of the McDowell County grand jury.

Police initially reported that they didn’t suspect foul play in Hatcher’s death. Blevins said the sheriff’s department reluctantly released incorrect information to the media as part of the ongoing investigation.

During Friday’s press conference, Shelton said that he and other investigators  proceeded cautiously until they had what was needed for arrest warrant.

“We thought that the scene was suspicious,” he told reporters. “But at the same time, we did not want to release any information due to the fact we knew who the two individuals were.”

“Actually Chief Field Deputy (Mark) Shelton and I are working on this together,” Blevins said early Friday. “He received some information in and around the War area that led us to a couple of different subjects that gave us information. That gave us enough information where we contacted the prosecuting attorney and he advised us we had enough to make the arrest.”

Investigators felt that the suspects could flee if they learned that foul play was suspected, Shelton said.

Rebecca Hatcher had been living at different locations, but the mayor’s home in War “was her primary residence,” Shelton said.  She is being held at the Southwest Regional Jail in Holden.

Her estranged husband, John Hatcher, is currently incarcerated in a West Virginia prison, Shelton stated.

On her Facebook page, Rebecca Hatcher said she was “recently separated after 13 years of marriage.”

Tom Hatcher was 72 at the time of his death. He had served as mayor of War since 1997. Shelton, who is also the chief of police in War, said Hatcher would be missed.

“I worked with Mayor Hatcher for several years. He was a good man. The city of War is going to miss him greatly,” Shelton said.

Hatcher worked in the field of education for 48 years before returning home. He taught in the public schools in Morgantown from 1960 to 1965, then worked as an education and language arts professor at West Virginia University. He also worked as a public school administrator from 1991 to 1999.

Hatcher was active in the War Kiwanis Club and the Christ The King Catholic Church in War. He was a past president of the Clinch Mountain Militia, Sons of the American Revolution and was also a past president of the Tazewell County Historical Society.

There will be a closed casket visitation on Sunday, July 22, from 6-9 p.m. at Christ The King Catholic Church in War. A funeral mass will be held at the church on Monday, July 23 at 11 a.m. City of War employees and police will serve as pallbearers.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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