Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 6, 2013

Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder in 2011 death

PRINCETON — Click here for video

After being advised about his rights and options under the law, a local man pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of a Mercer County resident.

Thomas Tyler Hall, 39, of Princeton appeared before Circuit Court Judge William Sadler for a plea hearing. Hall previously announced that he planned to plead guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Timothy DeWitt, a Princeton resident who was found March 2011 off Eads Mill Road near the Bluestone Falls area known as the gorge. Maintenance personnel working on an Interstate 77 bridge spotted the body and alerted authorities.

Hall had been indicted on charges including first-degree murder, robbery first-degree and conspiracy. Under the plea agreement, Hall pleaded to second-degree murder while the other charges were dismissed, said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler. Hall has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution. Cases against two other suspects in DeWitt’s murder are pending.

A conviction for second-degree murder carries of penalty of 10 to 40 years in prison, Sadler said, warning Hall that he would be giving up his rights to a jury trial and to appeal.

“It is more than an admission of guilt. It will be a conviction,” Sadler said.

Hall stated that he understood his rights and pleaded guilty.

Sitler said evidence presented during a trial would have shown that DeWitt had been acquainted with Tammy Lee Keen, 39, of Princeton, a codefendant who has been charged with first-degree murder, robbery first degree and conspiracy.

Keen and DeWitt had agreed to meet together, but Keen allegedly first told investigators that DeWitt had  been attacked by two other male individuals; a later polygraph test “indicated deception,” Sitler said.

A year after the murder, detectives with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department confronted Hall with evidence linking him to the crime, Sitler said. Hall and a third codefendant, Chad Hylton, 35, no address available, allegedly conspired with Keen to rob DeWitt for money and drugs.

Hall told investigators that he fired “one or two” shots along with Hylton when DeWitt tried to flee, Sitler said. Bullets from two different calibers of firearms were found in DeWitt’s body, and one indicated that Hall had fired one of the fatal shots.

Defense attorneys Mark Wills and William Flanigan asked that a presentencing investigation be conducted before Hall is sentenced on April 29. Sadler granted the motion. Hall was remanded back to the Southern Regional Jail.

Hylton is being held on unrelated charges at the Montgomery County Jail in Virginia. Keen is currently incarcerated at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.

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