The trial of an Albemarle County man charged with murder in the slaying of a man who disappeared 15 years ago has been delayed following disagreements over crucial evidence.
Kevin Michael Moore, 36, along with his father, Richard Glen Spradlin, 58, were charged in 2018 with the death of Jesse Hicks, who was reported missing in 2004. The two men each are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and using a firearm in commission of a felony.
Moore had been set to begin a five-day trial Monday, but the trial has been delayed to an unspecified date following a joint motion to continue.
According to authorities, Hicks left his Fluvanna County home Sept. 1, 2004, and never returned. His truck was found four days later in Nelson County. His body was found in May 2014 in Keene, in southern Albemarle County.
By the time Hicks was found, his body was “skeletonized,” making it difficult for authorities to identify him.
Hicks’ remains were first processed by a medical examiner, followed by an anthropologist, who examined the body for “tool marks” — notches and marks in the bone that could indicate a tool or weapon was used to dismember the body. However, in the anthropologist’s opinion, the marks on the bones were consistent with gnawing marks from rats, which often resemble tool marks.
Some time after examination and identification, the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office released Hicks’ remains to his family, who cremated them.
According to court documents, the commonwealth plans to argue that Hicks was killed by a bullet to the head and not by a knife or by dismemberment.
However, some of the evidence the commonwealth plans to use as evidence of Hicks’ identity has been called into question.
Per a motion to exclude evidence, counsel for Moore is arguing that the dental records used to determine Hicks’ identity are not adequate. Specifically, Moore’s attorney Blair D. Howard is arguing that the commonwealth has not provided a report from an expert that the dental records belong to Hicks.
Though records were obtained from Hicks’ dental office, the office is no longer in possession of the records and the records being cited by the commonwealth were obtained by Hicks’ wife and handed over to the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s office in 2014.
Additionally, Howard claims the x-rays have not been appropriately identified by anyone who worked at the dental office Hicks went to.
“In fact, only two of the four x-rays have any identifying marks, and in those two, the name ‘Jesse’ is not spelled like the Jesse Hicks identified in the autopsy report,” Howard wrote. “The name is misspelled twice, on one it is spelled ‘Jessi’ and on the other, it is spelled ‘Jessie,’”
In the joint motion to continue filed on Feb. 17, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard F. Farley wrote that the commonwealth has been working diligently to determine the origin of the x-rays.
To properly litigate the motion to exclude, the commonwealth will have to issue various subpoenas to former employees of the now-closed dental practice. Given the logistical difficulties, Farley wrote that both parties were in agreement that a delay to the trial was in the best interest of the case.
The motion to continue was granted and both Moore and Spradlin currently appear on the Albemarle County Circuit Court’s April 5 docket call where they are expected to receive new hearing dates.