POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A Gallipolis, Ohio, man who was arrested after the discovery of human remains outside Point Pleasant, W.Va., waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Monday morning in Mason County Magistrate Court.
Richard A. Hurt, 47, was charged with concealment of a deceased human body in Mason County after being arrested last week by troopers with the West Virginia State Police.
In West Virginia, 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, Hurt’s case is now 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.
On Monday, Hurt was escorted by two Mason County sheriff’s deputies into the courtroom of Magistrate Cheryl Miller Ross, only feet away from the family and supporters of Jessica Berry, who remained silent.
Along with representatives from the West Virginia State Police and Mason County Sheriff’s Department, also at the hearing were Mason County Prosecuting Attorney R. Craig Tatterson, representatives from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, as well as Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning and a detective from his office.
As previously reported, Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins stated Hurt has been charged with tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony charge, and abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony charge, in Gallia County.
A complaint filed in Gallia County stated the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio BCI assisted authorities in Mason County, W.Va., with the discovery of a dismembered human body on July 30. During the investigation, Hurt reportedly told investigators he and a recently reported missing Gallia County woman, Jessica Berry, 32, of Gallipolis, were at a residence on White Road in Gallia County on or about July 19. Berry allegedly overdosed on narcotics at the location.
Hurt also allegedly said he used a saw to dismember Berry’s remains, placed them in trash bags and transported those remains in his vehicle for roughly one and a half days before taking them to Mason County, where he buried the remains on private property.
Hurt reportedly said he disposed of Berry’s clothing and the saw in the trash that was collected by a local garbage service. The complaints state Hurt said he knew the items would end up at the local landfill.
Also at the hearing on Monday, Hurt’s bond was lowered from $100,000 cash-only, to $75,000 cash surety. This means Hurt will have to come up with either cash, property or other assets, and/or work with a bail bondsman to make the $75,000 bond. There was no word on any sort of extradition proceedings at the hearing which could transport Hurt back to Ohio.
After the hearing, Sheriff Browning said, “We’re going to have to let the investigation run its course. We’re going to take the information from the West Virginia Medical Examiner and compare that to what we have, as far as physical evidence.”
On Monday, the remains had still not been officially identified, according to the Mason County Detachment of the West Virginia State Police, which is the lead investigating agency in the case in Mason County and has been working with the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston.
Browning added: “You have to feel for the families that are involved and I think what we owe to them right now is to get an accurate accounting of what happened … and try to present that in a way that somehow, they can get at least a sense of justice.”
Hurt was represented by Attorney Courtenay Craig at the hearing.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.