A trial will proceed against an Albemarle County man charged with murdering a man who disappeared 15 years ago.
Kevin Michael Moore, 35, along with his father, Richard Glen Spradlin, 57, were charged last year in the death of Jesse Hicks, who was reported missing in 2004. The two men each are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and using a firearm in commission of a felony.
According to authorities, Hicks left his Fluvanna County home Sept. 1, 2004, and never returned. His truck was found four days later in Nelson County. His body was found in May 2014 in Keene, in southern Albemarle.
By the time Hicks was found, his body was “skeletonized,” making it difficult for authorities to identify him.
Hicks’ remains were first processed by a medical examiner, followed by an anthropologist, who examined the body for “tool marks” — notches and marks in the bone that could indicate a tool or weapon was used to dismember the body. However, in the anthropologist’s opinion, the marks on the bones were consistent with gnawing marks from rats, which often resemble tool marks.
According to court documents, the commonwealth plans to argue that Hicks was killed by a bullet to the head and not by a knife or by dismemberment.
Some time after examination and identification, the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office released Hicks’ remains to his family, who cremated them.
However, in Albemarle Circuit Court on Monday, Moore’s attorney, Blair D. Howard, argued that the cremation of the remains constituted destruction of evidence and was grounds for dismissal of the charges.
Howard called a medical examiner to the stand, who testified that of the hundreds of photos, only a few showed markings on the bones and were not adequate to establish whether they originated from tools or rat teeth.
Because the evidence had been destroyed, thus preventing a medical examiner from looking at the remains on behalf of the defense, Howard argued that his client’s right to due process had been violated.
“I’ll tell you how important those bones are,” he said. “Without these bones, they couldn’t establish the death of Mr. Hicks; without these bones, they couldn’t establish the identity of Mr. Hicks.”
Amanda Galloway, assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Albemarle County, said that under Howard’s argument, authorities would have to preserve a human body “in perpetuity” in case any charges could arise later.
Galloway also argued that the evidence had been preserved in the form of photographs and radiographs of Hicks’ remains. She also mentioned that part of the reason charges had arisen was a confession from Moore, but she did not elaborate.
“This was simply the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office returning the remains so the family could have a funeral and some degree of closure,” she said. “The commonwealth does not at this point plan to present that anything other than a gun was used.”
After taking time to read cases cited by both parties, Judge Cheryl Higgins denied the motion to dismiss.
According to the cited cases, dismissal would be due only if the destroyed evidence would allow the defendant to impeach the charges, she said. In this case, the opinions already suggested the marks on Hicks’ remains originated from rats and not dismemberment.
Moore’s five-day trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 9. Spradlin’s five-day trial is set for the spring.
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