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Expelled after recess: Pair of spectators removed from Albemarle murder trial

As an Albemarle County jury entered the fourth day of the murder trial of 39-year-old Kevin Moore they had no way of knowing the proceedings would be marked by a pair of dramatic exits after the judge ordered two spectators out of the gallery.

"My interest is to try this case one time," Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins said as she ordered two men, including the defendant’s uncle, out of the courtroom gallery after a prosecutor warned of witness interference.

The expulsion erupted midmorning, shortly after a recess.

"I apologize," prosecutor Richard Farley said as he interrupted a witness to approach the judge. "But something’s come up."

Farley told the court that he received a report of questionable contact between at least one person in the gallery and a potential witness. Even though the two accused men had been sitting on the defense side of the courtroom and at least one was a family member, Moore’s counsel shared Farley’s concern.

"This is not a personal playground; this is a murder trial," fumed defense attorney Brooke Howard. "It’s unbelievable if people can’t behave."

Outside the ears of the jury, the judge debriefed the two men, one of whom was accused merely of having knowledge of questionable behavior. Higgins seemed dissatisfied with their answers.

"Your stories are very, very diverse," Higgins told them before ordering the two men excluded for the remainder of the trial and forbidding them from talking to any other potential witnesses.

At the time of the dust-up, recently retired Albemarle County police detective Philip Giles was on the witness stand discussing his post-arrest interrogation of Moore. A video of their hourslong discussion was made on the morning of Oct. 11, 2018, after explosive grenades heralded the entrance of law enforcement into Moore’s Scottsville-era residence. The Moore and his father were each charged that day with killing their friend, 47-year-old Jesse Hicks, who disappeared Sept. 1, 2004.

"Would you truly kill somebody for your dad?" Giles could be heard asking Moore on a video played in court. "You love your dad that much?"

"Yes, I would," Moore responds.

While that admission was highlighted by the prosecution, other parts of the interrogation tape were highlighted by the defense.

At one point, Moore complains that the surreptitious recordings made inside a Chevy van by an informant and an Augusta County sheriff’s deputy, in which he seems to implicate himself, were nothing more than bravado.

"I didn’t kill nobody," Moore says in his post-arrest interrogation. "Just f–king rambling on, trying to make myself look cool I guess."

"You are protecting your dad," Giles could be heard pushing back. "That’s my take on it, dude."

Tuesday’s hearing also gave jurors a peek inside the secretive world of the Woodridge Sportsmen’s Association. Also known as Spradlin’s Hunt Club, the association holds a variety of leases on tracts in southeastern Albemarle County. One such parcel off Glendower Road includes a bluff over the Hardware River, where Hicks’s skeletal remains were found in 2014, nearly a decade after he went missing.

"This property typically had someone posted at the entrance," testified Paul Inge, a special agent with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. "That seemed weird to me."

The jury also heard from the manager of the limited liability company that owns the 300-acre property, David Purcell, who testified that he thinks about 100 acres of timber there were cut "10 to 15 years ago." He added, though, that he’s only ever visited the tract three or four times.

A more frequent visitor was Hicks’ nephew and close friend, Shannon Haislip, a man who said he’d been to outdoor parties near where his friend’s body was found as recently as six months before the disappearance. Haislip testified to drawing a map for law enforcement to find Hicks.

His map, he said, pointed to what he called "sawdust pile number two" based on a rumor he heard secondhand about the body’s location from a "local drunk."

More first-hand was Haislip’s testimony about a late-night interaction he witnessed between Moore’s father, Richard Glenn Spradlin, just a few days before Hicks disappeared.

"They got to hollering and arguing," he told the court.

Police arrested Spradlin the same day as his son, and the prosecution contends that the two conspired to kill Hicks. Spradlin, however, died of cancer last year at the age of 60.

Haislip also claimed that Spradlin owed Hicks $70,000, including interest, for money borrowed for a bovine investment. Haislip said the money would fund the purchase of cows whose sale would repay the loan.

After his uncle disappeared, Haislip testified, he visited the farm where the cows had been grazing.

"The cows were gone," said Haislip.

The trial is expected to be decided Friday.


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