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'Just spitballing': Defendant in Albemarle murder trial walks back claims he killed father's friend

An Albemarle County jury on Thursday got to hear much of a post-arrest interview in which a murder trial defendant repeatedly professed his innocence to the crime of killing his father’s friend.

In the video, Kevin Moore also said why he formerly bragged of killing and burying Jesse Hicks, his father’s friend and a Fluvanna County resident who disappeared in 2004.

"It was all bulls–t," Moore says. "I was just spitballing."

Throughout the two-plus hours of investigators’ taped post-arrest interview played in the courtroom Thursday, Moore — who has not testified in his own defense — is resolute.

"You ain’t got any evidence on me," he taunts his interrogators.

At one point, an investigator informs Moore that his father, who was simultaneously arrested in the alleged murder conspiracy, was talking. This is what’s called a "prisoner’s dilemma," in which the first suspect to admit culpability gets to control the narrative.

Moore doesn’t take the bait.

"In some way, it is my fault," he replies, before quickly asserting that talking inside a wired-up Chevy van to a pair of undercover investigators, one of whom said he wanted to hire a hitman, was his biggest mistake.

"I figured this guy was a hired killer," said Moore, "so I was just bullshitting him— telling him whatever he wanted me to say."

The investigators assert that Moore had too much specific information about the killing and burial of the 47-year-old Hicks to be innocent. Moore said he watched CSI and heard rumors about Hicks’ demise in his close-knit Woodridge community.

"I can come up with lots of ways to kill somebody," said Moore, "but I’m not going to do it."

The lead Albemarle County police investigator, a now-retired detective named Philip Giles, could be heard trying to demoralize the prisoner.

"This is a major uphill battle you’ve gotten yourself in," says Giles.

"That was just me rambling on," says Moore.

"That’s a terrible defense," says Giles.

"I know it is," says Moore, "but I don’t know what else to say."

At one point, another investigator accuses Moore of having body language indicative of guilt.

"My body language is aggravated," Moore snaps back, "because you said the only way to help myself is to help you."

Testimony revealed that the interview was conducted within an hour of flash-bang grenades detonating in Moore’s home on Oct. 11, 2018, as lawmen arrived to arrest him. Although the video screen was invisible to the gallery, one of Moore’s lawyers noted that the first moments of the videotaped interview transpired with Moore still clad only in underwear.

Thursday’s proceedings also featured a vigorous debate over whether Hicks’ skeletal remains, found on the grounds of Moore’s family’s southern Albemarle hunt club, should have showed pellet damage from a shotgun blast.

Defense ballistics expert Julien J. Mason Jr. told the jury how he found telltale lead residue when examining a piece of skull harvested from the tomb of notorious 19th-century robber Jesse James. Mason said he couldn’t say whether the skeletal remains of Hicks showed evidence of gunshot damage, because the bones were cremated shortly after their 2014 discovery. However, he did allege that the spray of buckshot from the blast of a .12-gauge shotgun should have been 8 to 17 inches wide if the shooter were standing, as Moore had previously claimed while bragging about the kill, 10 to 15 yards away.

Even though he downplayed his own estimate as a "rough approximation," just the presentation of it brought a rebuke from one of the prosecution’s two rebuttal witnesses. Stephanie Barnhouse Walcott called Mason’s estimate "misleading" because, she said, it ignored a variety of parameters including wind and temperature as well as the model of gun and type of ammunition.

Earlier in the trial, a forensic anthropologist took note of the fact that many of the bones near the shoulder where Moore had bragged of shooting Hicks were missing when the remains were excavated from a shallow grave.

The trial was expected to conclude Friday with closing arguments, and — jury willing — a verdict.


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