Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Judge: Murder charge stands in Salem roommate's death
The defense attorney had asked that the charge be reduced from first-degree murder.
SAM DEAN The Roanoke Times
Samuel Hale cries Tuesday while listening to the 911 tape at his preliminary hearing.
Samuel Lucas Hale will face a first-degree murder charge following testimony that he confessed to stabbing and killing Joshua McCoy, his roommate and longtime friend.
During Hale's preliminary hearing Tuesday, prosecutors used police statements and 911 recordings to reveal the events of the early morning hours of Jan. 16 at the young men's apartment in Salem.
Although Hale initially misled police, investigators testified he finally told them he fatally wounded McCoy during a drunken argument over McCoy's attempts to leave their residence to confront a man he believed had assaulted a relative.
By hearing's end, Salem General District Court Judge Jacqueline Talevi said she found probable cause to uphold the charge against Hale.
Hale, who turned 25 on Saturday, appeared pale and despondent during much of the proceeding, and sat slumped forward at the defense table, frequently weeping. Both his family and the victim's were present in court.
According to Hale's lawyer, Tony Anderson, Hale and McCoy "worked together and had grown up together."
The residence they shared was at Glenmary Apartments, a complex owned by McCoy's father.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Matthew Pollard used two 911 recordings to reveal false statements Hale gave immediately after the incident. In the calls, Hale is heard first telling a dispatcher that McCoy was stabbed in the neck, then saying his friend was cut by window glass. The rest of the recording depicts Hale trying to direct Salem police officers to his third-floor apartment on Lewis Avenue while also reassuring his wounded roommate.
McCoy was pronounced dead not long afterward, according to court records.
Police Lt. Michael Brightwell responded to the call that night and said when he reached the apartment, Hale told him that he and McCoy had fought, crashed through a window, and that a shard of broken glass had injured McCoy.
Brightwell said he found a broken window in the apartment but saw no blood in the vicinity. He said he later discovered a blood-stained knife on a towel about 15 feet from the broken window.
According to Salem police Detective Isaac Van Patten, who conducted subsequent interviews with him, Hale waived his Miranda rights on two occasions and, after he learned of his friend's death, finally confessed.
"He stated he lied about that because he was scared of getting in trouble," Van Patten told the court. He testified that Hale told him he and McCoy were drinking that night and were discussing an alleged assault against a family member of McCoy's. Van Patten said that as Hale reportedly tried to prevent McCoy from leaving to find the assailant, they clashed. Van Patten said at some point Hale wrapped a shard of glass in toilet paper to use as a dagger, but when the two fought again in the kitchen, Hale instead grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed his roommate in the neck.
Van Patten quoted Hale as saying he got the knife "because I would just have to deal with him like that."
Anderson praised the investigators in court, but also noted that at one point during the interrogation, Hale fell asleep on the floor of the interview room and said he may have been physically ill.
Anderson moved to strike premeditation from the charge and asked it be lowered to second-degree murder.
Pollard argued that Hale had given "multiple explanations and substantial delay," and had made a makeshift knife before using a real one to attack McCoy.
"It was premeditated and deliberate," Pollard concluded. Talevi agreed and certified the first-degree murder charge.
The case is schedule to go before a grand jury May 21, when a trial date will be set.