Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

November 1, 2013

‘I was concerned about Tom’

Neighbor testifies about fight in day two of Hatcher murder trial

WELCH — A day of tracking down several unknown charges on his bank card led to an acrimonious argument with his daughter-in-law less than 18 hours before War Mayor Thomas Hatcher was found dead in the locked bedroom of his home.

Patty Hawkins, Tom Hatcher’s neighbor, testified on day two of the Rebecca “Becky” Hatcher murder trial that she heard the mayor and his daughter-in-law engaged in an argument sometime in the afternoon on July 16, 2012, the day before Hatcher was found dead. Hawkins said that she was sitting on her front porch reading a book when the sound of “unfriendly” voices drew her to the wall surrounding Hatcher’s home.

Hawkins testified under direct examination by McDowell County Prosecuting Attorney Edward Kornish, that she saw Rebecca Hatcher’s sister, Laura Click, attempting to pull her away from the confrontation.

“All of a sudden, Tom — he could have a very loud voice — said: ‘I prosecuted John and I am going to prosecute you.’ It was very distinct,” she said.

According to Hawkins’ testimony, it was uncharacteristic of Mayor Hatcher even to raise his voice. “I was concerned about Tom,” she testified. “Tom ... He didn’t need that. He didn’t need the obscenities and the yelling. You get to a certain age and you just don’t want to fight any more.”

Hawkins testified that she thought Mayor Hatcher was “frustrated,” and she added that his daughter-in-law “was yelling and screaming. She said that in the past, she observed that Mayor Hatcher argued, “like a gentleman. He used his brain with his vocabulary and he won his arguments. He used his mind.”

Under cross-examination by defense counsel, Thomas Evans, Hawkins testified that while she heard Mayor Hatcher, “I didn’t see him.”

Evans cross-examined Hawkins about why she was concerned about the mayor. When she responded that Mayor Hatcher “was 72 years old,” and that he was “a diligent man,” Evans asked if she was aware of her neighbor’s general health condition. “When you get to a certain age, everybody knows about everybody’s health,” she testified. She testified that she knew Hatcher was a diabetic, but added “he was doing what his doctor said to do.” Hawkins testified under re-cross that Hatcher and his priest had stopped at the Hawkins’ home on Sunday, July 15, 2012, and the priest gave communion to her husband who was ill.

As she was stepping down from the witness stand, Hawkins fell. As a natural reaction, jurors started to move in her direction to assist, but McDowell County Circuit Court Judge Rudolph J. “Rick” Murensky II cautioned the jurors not to ask if she was OK or to help. Court Bailiff Lyle Noe assisted Hawkins, who appeared to be uninjured, from the courtroom.

Kornish called several witnessed to the stand in the morning session of the trial — several of whom testified about the steps that Mayor Hatcher took on the day before his death, searching for how his bank account balance had been drained from more than $1,500 to a little less than $250 in just a few days.

Ashley White, branch manager of the Pioneer Community Bank in War, testified that she spoke with Mayor Hatcher on the telephone before noon on July 16, 2012, and he asked about his on-line banking statement. Under cross-examination by Evans, she testified that Hatcher said he planned to come to the branch. Under Kornish’s re-direct, White testified that Hatcher was complaining about the ATM withdrawals.

A clerk at the Hillbilly Market in War testified that Mayor Hatcher spoke with her at about 3 p.m. on July 16, 2012. She testified that “he was more aggressive” and testified that she had observed his daughter-in-law in the store with a bank card. Kornish examined other witnesses who testified about Rebecca Hatcher’s activities with the bank card from Friday, July 13 to Monday, July 16, 2012.

Jerry Rasi, manager of Momma Lina’s Video Lottery “casino,” testified that Mayor Hatcher visited him and asked him to help him “understand how his card was being used. He said no one had his card,” Rasi testified. He also testified that he had reviewed the casino’s tapes from July 13, 14, 15 and 16, 2012, and found that Rebecca Hatcher had been in the casino three different times.

Under cross-examination by Evans, Rasi testified that Rebecca Hatcher was a visitor at the casino. “Did she win?” Evans asked. Rasi testified that she did win, but added that the house also won. Scott Moore, security investigator with the State Lottery Commission, testified about the times Rebecca Hatcher was in the casino.

One of Mayor Hatcher’s associates in the Sons of the American Revolution testified that he had been with Hatcher from 7-9:15 p.m., on the night before his death. He testified that Hatcher “seemed to be in good spirits,” and added when he was later called back to the stand by Kornish that his friend “generally, had a clear complexion.”

Pete Hawkins, Patty’s son, testified on direct examination by Kornish that due to a hiatal hernia that he was suffering with, he took hot showers to alleviate the pain. When he exhausted the reserves of his hot water heater, he crossed the street to Mayor Hatcher’s home to use his shower.

He testified that Rebecca Hatcher let him use one of the showers in the Hatcher home, and when he returned shortly after the first shower, she let him use the shower in Mayor Hatcher’s bedroom — a room that Mayor Hatcher supposedly locked with a dead bolt lock when he was away or at home.

The trial will continue this morning in Judge Murensky’s court.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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