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Murder charges referred to grand jury

Detective Says Suspects Attempted to Get Inside Vehicle Carrying Injured Victims

Charges against two Pike County men accused in the New Year’s Day stabbing death of 24-year-old Michael Shane Hogg have been referred to the Letcher County Grand Jury for further action.

At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing in Letcher District Court Thursday afternoon, Judge Kevin R. Mullins ruled there is sufficient evidence against Richard Huffman IV, 34, and Patrick Smith, 28, to have their cases bound over to the grand jury.

The ruling by Mullins came after testimony was heard from Kentucky State Police Detective Joel Abner, the officer who charged Huffman with murder and two counts of assault and Smith with complicity to murder, two counts of carrying a concealed deadly weapon, tampering with physical evidence and criminal mischief.

Under questioning from Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II, Abner said Hogg, an Eastern Kentucky University student home for winter break, suffered “wounds to the front of his torso and several wounds to his back” when Huffman and Smith attacked Hogg and two other men during an altercation in downtown Whitesburg at about 2 a.m. January 1.

Abner testified that Huffman stabbed Hogg with a knife with a fixed bladed of about four to five inches in length. Abner referred to the knife as a “buck knife.”

Abner said three eyewitnesses, including surviving victims David Christopher Puckett, 23, of Jenkins, and Stacy Phillips, 23, of Thornton, told police that Huffman and Smith were both on top of Hogg, a native of Kingscreek, at the time Hogg suffered a total of eight stab wounds. Abner said Puckett was stabbed one time in the mid-lower part of his back, while Phillips suffered a lacerated hand.

The third eyewitness, Abner said, is 23-year-old Samantha Mullins of Wise, Va., who attempted to drive Hogg, Puckett and Phillips to the Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital for treatment after the altercation near a parking lot at the intersection of Hayes Street and Pine Street.

In a harrowing account, Abner said the witnesses told him that as the three injured men were getting into a Jeep in which Ms. Mullins was going to drive them to the hospital for help, Huffman and Smith beat on the vehicle and tried to get inside it before slashing its tires. Because of the flattened tires, Ms. Mullins was able to drive only as far as the Letcher County Recreation Center before she stopped the vehicle and dialed 9-1-1 at 2:13 a.m.

Asked by an attorney for Huffman, Robert Wright of Pikeville, why Ms. Mullins didn’t call 9-1-1 sooner, Abner replied, “She was busy getting away from the two suspects.”

According to other evidence presented at the hearing, the dispute involving Huffman, Smith, Hogg, Puckett and Phillips began earlier in the night after the two suspects entered the Jeep — “somewhat uninvited,” testified Abner — while it was occupied by Ms. Mullins and another woman whom Abner didn’t identify while the vehicle was parked in a lot near the rear of the Letcher County Courthouse.

Under questioning by Wright, Abner said Huffman “became inappropriate” with one of the two women and “exited the vehicle” sometime soon after that.

Attorney Wright, whose questioning indicated that Huffman may claim he was acting in self-defense when he committed the stabbings, asked Abner if the altercation began after Ms. Mullins told the three stabbing victims of the encounter with Huffman and Smith.

Wright also asked Abner if video surveillance showed the three victims leaving StreetSide Grill and Bar on Main Street, where they had been celebrating the new year, after Huffman walked out of the establishment.

The highly secured courtroom (at least 18 police officers stood guard) was filled to capacity with spectators for Thursday’s hearing, mostly with people showing their support for the Hogg family, including Michael Hogg’s parents, Don and Connie Hogg of Kingscreek.

Judge Mullins also denied bail for Huffman and Smith on Thursday. Mullins noted that the two men are charged with capital murder and said they were “definitely a danger to the public.”



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