UPDATE: Click found guilty of murder - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Click found guilty of murder

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Earl Click on the witness stand Tuesday; photo by Kristen Conner Earl Click on the witness stand Tuesday; photo by Kristen Conner
Earl Click in court Wednesday. Photo by Kristen Conner Earl Click in court Wednesday. Photo by Kristen Conner
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WELCH (WVVA) - A jury has found Earl Click guilty of the first-degree murder in the death of War Mayor Tom Hatcher.
 
Click was also found guilty of conspiracy. The jury recommended life with mercy.
 
Jurors began deliberations around 3 p.m. and returned its verdict shortly before 5 p.m.

Prosecuting attorney Ed Kornish tells WVVA it was a long trial with lots of evidence, but in the end, the jury went with a "guilty" verdict because of the "cumulative" amount of testimony tying Click to the murder. He told WVVA he hopes this brings closure to the Hatcher family.

But Tammy Shortridge, Click's mother, told WVVA after her son's conviction that she still believes he isn't guilty. 

"I know he didn't do it," she said.

When asked what this conviction means to her family, she said, "It means to my family heartbreak... No he's not guilty. I love him to death and I would die for him, but I wouldn't lie for him."
 
Before the verdict was handed down, the last day of the trial began with Click's defense calling an expert witness who testified that he saw no signs of assault in photos of the deceased mayor's body.
 
Dr. William Manion testified via video during day 6 of the high-profile murder trial that he did not observe any evidence of homicide in the photos he examined.
 
The prosecution alleges Hatcher was smothered with a plastic bag.
 
The defense rested at noon. The prosecution followed by calling rebuttal witnesses, including Misty Laws, the woman who Click said he filmed a sex tape with the night before Hatcher was found dead.
 
Laws testified that she did not have sex with or film a tape with Click. She did say that she had been in contact with him and saw him on the night in question.
 
Following a noon recess, closing arguments were presented. The jury began deliberations shortly after 3 p.m.
   
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WELCH (WVVA) - The man accused of killing former War mayor Thomas Hatcher took the stand in his own defense Tuesday morning, telling the court he was filming a sex tape in another county the night before Hatcher was found dead.
 
Earl Click, charged with first-degree murder, took the stand in his own defense shortly after court reconvened Tuesday. Click testified that he was in Grundy filming a sex tape and taking pills with others the night before Hatcher was found dead in his War home.
 
Click said he was not in War that night and never told anyone that he was involved in Hatcher's murder.
 
Click said he attended his grandmother's wake the next day, where he served as a pall bearer.
 
The prosecution had alleged that Click had murdered Hatcher to protect his sister, Rebecca, from being prosecuted for stealing from Hatcher.
 
Rebecca Hatcher, the victim's daughter-in-law, has been acquitted of murder in the case.
 
Click's mother, Tammy Shortridge was recalled to the stand Tuesday, and testified that she tried to obtain the tape in order to clear her son's name.
 
Shortridge said the female in the tape had destroyed it after showing it to her.
 
Court adjourned for the day before 11:30 a.m. due to the unavailability of a witness.
 
WVVA's Kristen Conner was in the courtroom and will have a live report on WVVA News at Noon.
 
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WELCH, W. Va (WVVA)-- The man accused of killing former War mayor Thomas Hatcher returned to court Monday as his trial continued.

Mayor Hatcher was found dead at his home in July 2012. Prosecutors allege he was smothered.

Earl Click and his sister, Rebecca Hatcher, the mayor's daughter-in-law, were charged with murder. Rebecca was found not-guilty of murder, but the jury was not able to reach a verdict on a conspiracy charge.

On Day 4 of the trial, the state called its last witnesses-- including the investigating officer Mark Shelton, who testified that police suspect money was missing from Hatcher's pants when they found his body.

Then, the prosecution rested its case against Earl Click-- who is expected to take the stand in the coming days.

The defense called Hope and Tammy Shortridge, Click's sister and mother respectively, to the stand Monday. Much of their testimonies centered around Rebecca Hatcher, as well as the funeral that defense attorney Ronald Hassan says serves as Click's alibi.

Tammy Shortridge claimed Click was in Grundy for her mother-in-law's wake. She said she saw him at the funeral, and he had been staying at an inn nearby.

She added that Rebecca Hatcher had also been home the night of Thomas Hatcher's death, but did not leave the house that night.

When Prosecutor Ed Kornish began to question her further, he was interrupted. Judge Stephens called all parties to the stand, and then the court took a recess until Tuesday morning to deal with legal questions that needed more research.

The trial will continue until at least Wednesday-- the defense needed another day because of a scheduling conflict with an expert doctor they plan to call to the stand.

Judge Stephens thanked the jury Monday for their continued patience in this trial, which began Wednesday of last week.

 

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WELCH (WVVA) -- Judge Booker Stephens hears testimony again Thursday as the prosecution makes its case against Earl Click of Grundy, Virginia in the murder of War Mayor Thomas Hatcher.

The prosecution is bringing around 30 witnesses to the stand. 

After forensic specialists described what they found at the alleged crime scene, it was time for Mayor Hatcher's next door neighbor to take the stand.  Patty Hawkins was at home watching TV with her husband the night of Hatcher's death.

"I didn't hear anything that was out of line, and I didn't look to see if the bedroom light was on," says Hawkins.

Also called to the stand was a man who saw Hatcher the night he died.  Barry Abel was at a meeting in Tazewell with him.

"[He] seemed jovial, kind of like his general demeanor," says Abel.  "Seemed to have a neat appearance. I didn't see anything out of order or different from his usual appearance."

The climax of Thursday's proceedings seemed to be the medical examiner's testimony. 

"The matter of death, in context with the investigation and the findings, we stated for the death certificate as a homicide," says Nabila Haika with the West Virginia Medical Examiner's office.

She brought in photos for the jury of lacerations around Hatcher's face.  These led her to believe he was deprived of oxygen and suffocated, which ultimately cause his death.

"The heart disease was likely a factor, but more likely in making it faster as opposed to causing it in the setting of these other things that we have found, and we have correlated with the investigation all together."

After the prosecution finishes interviewing their witnesses, the defense is expected to call five to 10 people to the stand. 

 

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WELCH (WVVA) - The trial of a man accused of murdering War Mayor Tom Hatcher is underway in McDowell County.

Earl Click appeared in McDowell County Circuit Court Wednesday. Jury selection was completed before noon with opening arguments taking place that afternoon.

Click is charged with murder in connection with the July 2012 death of Hatcher, who was found dead in his home after failing to show up for work.

During opening statements, Prosecuting Attorney Ed Kornish said that Click's sister Rebecca Hatcher -- Tom Hatcher's daughter in law, who had lived with him -- let Click inside the mayor's bedroom to commit the crime.

Kornish said he plans to call several of Click's friends as witnesses in the trail.

Click's defense attorney argued that Click is not guilty because it can be proven that Tom Hatcher died of natural causes and that Click had no reason to kill him.

Rebecca Hatcher was acquitted of her murder charge after a Nov. 2013 trial. A mistrial was declared on a conspiracy charge against her, with a re-trial is scheduled for this year.

Prosecutors have alleged that Tom Hatcher was suffocated with a plastic bag while he slept.

WVVA's Kristen Conner is in the courtroom and will have more today on WVVA News.

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