POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A preliminary hearing has been set in the case of a Gallipolis, Ohio man charged with concealment of a deceased human body.
Richard A. Hurt, 47, is scheduled to appear before Mason County Magistrate Cheryl Miller Ross for that preliminary hearing at 9:30 a.m., Aug. 8 in Mason County Magistrate Court.
Preliminary hearings do not determine guilt, they determine if there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed. A defendant has the right to waive the hearing and in doing so, the case could be bound over to Mason County Circuit Court for possible, further criminal proceedings. This could include the case being heard by a grand jury with the next term meeting in September in Mason County.
Hurt is currently incarcerated in the Western Regional Jail on a $100,000 cash-only bond, after human remains were found on private property outside the city limits of Point Pleasant.
The criminal complaint filed in magistrate court, states Hurt said he dismembered the deceased victim, Jessica Berry, with a saw after she fatally overdosed on narcotics. According to the complaint, Hurt stated he placed the body parts into trash bags and transported them to a private home, which was not his home, located on Abby Lane outside Point Pleasant. There, the remains were placed into a shallow grave and covered with dirt and rubble. The complaint doesn’t state where Berry died.
Though Hurt allegedly claimed the victim was Berry in his statement to troopers, as of Tuesday, Sgt. J. Finnicum of the Mason County Detachment of the West Virginia State Police, reported the victim’s remains had not yet been officially identified by the medical examiner in Charleston, W.Va. Sgt. Finnicum said he expected those results soon.
Berry is a missing person from Gallipolis. As reported by the Gallipolis Daily Tribune last week, according to Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning, a report dated July 24 indicated Berry’s family had not seen Berry, 32, for days and were growing concerned. Deputies spoke with the woman’s mother, Tammy Taylor, who stated her daughter had gotten into a red or maroon car with some friends in the evening at approximately 7:30 p.m. July 18.
WVSP Troopers were called to respond to a complaint of possible human remains buried at a private residence located at 94 Abby Lane, Point Pleasant on Saturday. Once on the scene, the remains were confirmed, buried in a shallow grave on the property. At the time of the discovery, troopers spoke with the homeowner who stated Hurt had recently done some work in the area where the body was located. Troopers said the homeowner was not involved in the crime and gave troopers a description of Hurt’s vehicle.
On Sunday morning, troopers spotted Hurt driving on a road not far from where the human remains were found in Mason County, initiating a traffic stop. Following this, Hurt agreed to give a voluntary statement referenced in the criminal complaint, according to troopers.
The WVSP is leading the investigation into the discovery of the remains and Hurt’s arrest, with assistance at the scene from its WVSP Crime Lab personnel, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and the Mason County Sheriff’s Department.
On Monday, Sheriff Browning’s office released a statement saying Gallia County Detectives along with Ohio BCI agents had the opportunity to interview Hurt shortly after his arrest. The release also stated Hurt was a “person of interest” who had been interviewed by Gallia County deputies prior to his arrest in Mason County concerning the disappearance of Berry.
The release also stated further charges are pending in Ohio upon consultation with the Gallia County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Adkins.
The investigation is ongoing and persons who may have information can contact the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office at 740-446-1221 or through the Criminal Activity Tip Line of 740-446-6555. The WVSP can be contacted with information by calling 304-675-0850.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.