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Sins of the father: Defendant's dad looms large over Albemarle murder trial

The father of Kevin Moore has been dead for nearly a year, but he has loomed over his son’s murder trial, particularly on Wednesday, the fifth day of testimony, when a witness revealed that Glenn Spradlin had pushed him out of the Spradlin family’s Albemarle County hunt club despite a leadership role and more than 20 years as a member.

Fluvanna County hunter Brian Jordan told the court about a 2018 confrontation with Spradlin, then the club’s president.

“I was told I had testified and I was no longer a member,” said Jordan

Jordan said he didn’t volunteer to testify to the multijurisdictional grand jury investigating the disappearance of 47-year-old Jesse Hicks but had been compelled by a subpoena.

Jordan was the vice president of the Woodridge Sportsmen’s Association in southern Albemarle County at the time his membership was terminated. But the Spradlins, who founded and ran the club, typically had their way, he said — so much so that members often referred to it as Spradlin’s Hunt Club.

“It was pretty much their establishment,” said Jordan.

Near Scottsville was one of the club’s key properties, the so-called Black Gate tract, which has played a key role in the murder trial. Located behind a locked chain drawn across its dirt access path off Glendower Road, the 300-acre parcel was the site where the skeletal remains of Hicks, who went missing in 2004, were found nearly 10 years later.

One thing the jury was not allowed to hear Wednesday was the recipient of Hicks’ final phone call. It was a call, according to prosecutor Richard Farley, to Spradlin.

Farley said that a retired FBI special agent was prepared to testify that it was that final phone call that led him to conduct a polygraph examination of Spradlin. However, Judge Cheryl Higgins ruled that there could be no mention of such a phone call because it would be hearsay. Nor could be there be any mention of a polygraph, because mention of that undependable technology would be prejudicial, she ruled.

Prior testimony from Hicks family members — his wife, his sister and his nephew — indicated that just before Hicks’ disappearance tensions were rising over a debt that Spradlin owed the man. The prosecution claims that Spradlin and his now 39-year-old son Moore, the defendant, conspired to kill Hicks to avoid paying.

The two were both indicted and arrested in 2018, charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder. Spradlin died in April after the trial had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and by a defense motion.

The prosecution’s final two witnesses were the former Nelson County sheriff’s deputy, Scott Folsom, who found Hicks’ pickup truck at a commuter parking lot near the community of Faber and the FBI agent, Ken Mikionis, whose testimony was limited to informing the jury of the fact that he interviewed Spradlin.

After a failed bid by co-counsel for the defense Brooke Howard to strike the evidence, Moore’s team began trying to illustrate something that Howard said in a sidebar about Hicks, who has been largely portrayed as a self-employed truck driver and gravel hauler.

“Hicks was a drug dealer, and that’s what he did every day,” said Howard, “and everything else was just window dressing.”

To make that point, the first witness the defense called was Benjamin Allen Black, a self-described native of the Woodridge community. He identified himself as a great-grandson of the founder of the hunt club — and as a former cocaine dealer whose product was so pure that he was stealing market share from Hicks.

“People were not coming to see him,” Black said, “but see me.”

On cross-examination, the prosecution attempted to depict the sudden appearance after Hicks’ disappearance of two gleaming John Deere tractors near the Spradlin-operated Woodridge Market as the fruits of cash stolen from the dead body of Hicks.

“I never really connected the two,” replied Black.

Earlier in the trial, Hicks’ widow testified to having the missing-person signs she posted at the Woodridge Market removed at the direction of Spradlin’s mother. And on Tuesday, retired Albemarle police detective Philip Giles said that market personnel had told police they couldn’t park there.

“It’s not what we consider a police-friendly location,” said Giles.

Even Woodridge native Black noticed the way people formerly united by blood and marriage splintered in the wake of Hicks’ disappearance.

“The community as a whole kind of split up,” said Black. “It’s just devastating.”

Another defense witness the jury heard Wednesday was the current president of the Woodridge Sportsmen’s Association, Eddie Spencer Jr., who described himself as a close friend to both Spradlin and Hicks.

Spencer said that he was such a good friend that, on the the many overnight horseback trips the two would take, Hicks would confess various aspects of his cocaine dealing.

“The second sawdust pile was his go-to place to meet his contact,” said Spencer.

The second sawdust pile was the place that an earlier witness had described as the place where Hicks’ body was found. Spencer also asserted that, contrary to the allegations by Hicks’ relatives, there was no animosity between Spradlin and Hicks.

However, on cross-examination, Spencer was unable to name Hicks’ sister, brother or either of his two daughters, who were 12 and 18 at the time of their father’s disappearance.

As he has throughout the dayslong judicial proceeding accusing him of shotgunning and burying a close family friend to please his dad, Moore showed no evidence of emotion from his chair at the defense table Wednesday. The trial resumed Thursday with additional defense witnesses.


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