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Lewis murder suspect will plead innocent

by Joedy McCreary


(June 10) An Upshur County lawyer said his client, who has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his next-door neighbor, will plead innocent during an upcoming preliminary hearing.

"My evaluation of the case indicates that we have a legal defense," said Burton Hunter, a Buckhannon attorney. "The mere fact that there has been a shooting doesn't mean that a murder took place."

Lewis County Circuit Judge Thomas Keadle denied bond Monday to John Marple, 41, who was arrested for allegedly fatally shooting Rick Hawkins of Route 1, Box 149, Buckhannon.

Hawkins, 43, died Saturday at his Lewis County farm near Hacker's Creek Road.

Autopsy results showed that two gunshot wounds killed Hawkins, State Medical Examiner Dr. Jack Frost concluded.

A rifle was used to shoot Hawkins, Frost said Tuesday. One shot struck Hawkins in the chest, Frost said, while the second passed through his arm into his chest.

Hawkins was also hit by a number of shotgun pellets, Frost said, though he did not immediately have the exact figure.

Marple remains in the Central Regional Jail in Braxton County. Hunter said he plans to renew the motion for bond.

The preliminary hearing in which Marple is expected to plead innocent should be scheduled for some time next week, Hunter said.

"I feel that Mr. Marple is a hard -working farmer and businessman with a clean record," Hunter said. "There are two sides to this story."

State Police Trooper C. Tierney, who unsuccessfully attempted to revive Hawkins on the scene, said that first-degree murder charges -- which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted -- will be sought against Marple.

Tierney said he has contacted two or three witnesses, and more in-depth interviewing remains. Evidence collection will take anywhere from 2-3 weeks, Tierney said, and the findings will be sent to the Criminal Investigation Bureau in Charleston.