Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

WELCH — After listening to witnesses for the prosecution and the defense, a McDowell County jury made a recommendation of mercy Friday in the case of a Raysal man who was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder for his girlfriend’s 2017 shooting death.

Charles Kennedy, 28, was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder after a four-day trial before Circuit Court Judge Rudolph J. Murensky II. Kennedy was charged after the Dec. 22, 2017 shooting of Emily Hatfield, 24, also of Raysal. The jury deliberated for almost three hours before finding him guilty.

In West Virginia, first-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison. With a recommendation of mercy, Kennedy will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years of his sentence, but parole is not guaranteed.

The jury decided Friday afternoon to recommend mercy for Kennedy’s sentencing, according to records at the McDowell County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Kennedy started the case the evening of Dec. 22, 2017 when he called McDowell 911 and said that Hatfield had been shot. Senior Trooper J.A. Tupper with the West Virginia State Police Welch detachment said investigators were first told the call was about “an accidental shooting involving a pistol underneath a pillow accidentally going off.”

Tupper said Kennedy and Hatfield had a “boyfriend-girlfriend relationship” and had children. Prosecuting Attorney Emily Miller told the jury during the trial that the couple had five children. None of the children were at the home when the shooting occurred.

Kennedy told troopers that the shooting, which involved a .38-caliber Taurus revolver, was an accident.

Miller reminded the jury during the prosecution’s closing argument that medical examiner testified about how Hatfield’s gunshot wound showed that the gun had been pressed tightly against her skin, giving the shot’s gases nowhere to go but into her head. A forsenics firearms expert testified that guns were unlikely to go off by accident unless a finger was on the trigger. The West Virginia State Police crime lab determined that the gun was functioning properly.

Kennedy’s attorney, D.J. Morgan, argued during his closing statement that the state had not met the burden of proof for first-degree murder or second-degree murder, and had not provided proof of a motive. Morgan also stated that the gun had not been tested to see if it could have fired by accident.

The gun was found under Hatfield, and Kennedy wiped his hands off on her shirt, Miller said.

“She fell backward and got blood on his shirt,’ Miller stated in her closing argument. “That’s how he got blood on his chest and everything because he was right there when it happened. He laid her down and put a blanket on her. He wiped her hands on her shirt…she was dead. She couldn’t have done it. He took his Taurus, stuck it underneath her back and called 911.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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