By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Mercer County jurors continued hearing testimony Wednesday in the trial of a local man charged with killing the mother of his child.
Marcus McKinley, 27, of Princeton, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after the May 19, 2011 death of Ayana Patton, 18, of Bluefield. Patton died as the result of gunshots while at the Opera House Apartments in downtown Bluefield. McKinley left Mercer County and was later extradited from North Carolina.
One witness, Charles Hatfield, 44, of the Bluefield area was an inmate being held on unrelated charges at the Bluefield City Jail where McKinley was held temporarily after extradited in June 2011 from the Charlotte, N.C., area. He is now being held at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver pending extradition to Virginia.
Edward Kornish, a McDowell County prosecutor assigned to the case, told Judge Omar Aboulhosn that Hatfield has previously provided information concerning a conversation he had with McKinley about the shooting. In it, McKinley allegedly stated, “I shot her. I just lost it.”
Hatfield said in court Wednesday that he could not recall the details or recall if McKinley was the man he had met.
“Judge, I think he’s been threatened,” Kornish said.
When questioned by Aboulhosn, Hatfield spoke about a threat being shouted at him in the regional jail. McKinley’s attorney, Tom Czarnik, replied that his client is not in the section of the jail where Hatfield was housed. The judge has asked that Hatfield be transferred to another regional jail.
A friend of Ayana Patton’s family, Thomas Reed, Jr., of Bluefield, testified that McKinley and Patton had an infant son that was born the year before she was killed. They shared custody, and Reed would regularly take the baby to the Bluefield Police Department where one parent or the other would pick him up.
Authorities with state Child Protective Services had ordered both McKinley and Patton to remain separate in order to safeguard their child. Jami Nunley, a CPS agent who handled the case, testified both of them were good parents, but their relationship was “volatile” and dangerous for the baby. Patton’s family has custody of the child. The couple had gone through a cycle of reconciliations and break-ups several times. Nunley then told the court that she later saw them dining at a Bluefield,Va. restaurant after they had been told to stay apart.
The trial is scheduled to continue today in Mercer County Circuit Court. McKinley is being held at the Southern Regional Jail.