The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 5, 2014

Defendant takes stand in McDowell murder trial

By Bill Archer
For The Register-Herald

WELCH — The court had already been alerted to the fact defendant Earl Click intended to testify on his own behalf, but an unexpected hush spread across the gallery when defense counsel Ronald Hassan asked his client to take the stand.

Early in his testimony, Click, 27, of Grundy, Va., charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy in the death of War Mayor Thomas Clark Hatcher, gave a thorough accounting of how he got started into a life of crime as a teenager. However, the real impact of his testimony came when he testified about his alibi — Misty Laws.

Throughout his testimony, Click relied on the phrase: “To be honest with you.” He had been in the courtroom when his Uncle Roy Darnell “Uncle Donnie” Harding testified about a period of time early in the morning of July 17, 2012 — the approximate time of Hatcher’s death — when Click was gone from his apartment at the Appalachian Inn in Grundy.

Click explained that during that time, he had been in another apartment with Laws. “To be honest, we went in there to have sex ... to be together,” Click testified. “For some reason, she pulled out a video recorder to record it.”

He testified that the video recorder was an RCA, and had a date and time stamp on it. He testified that since he had been taking pills, he was OK with the video. Earlier in his testimony, he testified that he had dated Laws prior to his initial incarceration. Although she was married with children, when he got out of prison on June 16 or 17, she eventually let him know she wanted to get together again.

“We ended up having sex for a good hour,” Click testified. Afterwards, he testified that he took a shower and put the same clothes on, while Laws showered and put on a change of clothes. After she showered, he testified that she showed him the tape. “You could see what we were doing; the time and date,” he testified.

He testified that he returned to his apartment at about 4:30 a.m. and denied making any statements about killing anyone or having any money. He testified about his “Uncle Donnie” asking him to burn a bag of clothes. He said that his uncle told him that he had been “stealing copper,” and needed to get rid of clothing that might identify him with that crime.

He testified that when he and some others were returning from a drug-buying trip to Pound, Va., they stopped 15 minutes away from the Appalachian Inn, to take a nature break, and he decided to burn the bag. “I put the bag out on the road and Bo (Collier) threw me a jug of two-cycle oil.”

On cross examination, Kornish asked why Click’s account of events differed from the accounts of his friends. “They’re incorrect,” Click testified and added, “I never once said I killed a man or I had blood money.”

He testified on cross that he served five years on his first conviction because he would “lose” his good time by getting tattoos or fighting. He testified that he “absolutely,” adjusted to prison life and added that he couldn’t go to a grocery story because he got anxious around a lot of people. “You’re just leery about everyone,” he testified.

Hassan recalled witness Tammy Shortridge and asked her if she saw Misty Laws’ sex tape and she responded: “Yes sir, I did.” She testified that after Earl Click called her from jail to tell her about his alibi, she said that she went to see Laws and ask her for the tape, “‘cause it would clear my son,” she testified. After Laws refused to give her the tape, Shortridge testified that she offered to give her $500 for it. Shortridge testified that Laws threw it on the ground, “stomped it,” and when Hassan asked if she pulled the tape out of it, Shortridge responded: “Yes.”

Prior to Click’s testimony, the court ruled in favor of Hassan’s Monday motion. During a sidebar conference, Judge Booker T. Stephens told Kornish that he couldn’t pursue the line of questioning that he was pursuing, although the line was not disclosed.

Stephens asked jurors to return at 9:30 a.m. today with the defense expecting to rest after the testimony of an expert medical examiner witness. Kornish said he had some rebuttal witnesses.