Crime/Court

Crime/Court
Warren County man charged in toddler’s death
November 9, 2017
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Warren County, VA – A Warren County man, Chad Ritchie, 28, has been charged with second-degree murder and cruelty and injuries to children following the death of a 22-month-old child.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office issued a media release late Thursday afternoon stating that the county’s E-911 Communications Center received a call on Wednesday that a child was in cardiac arrest at 908 Blue Mountain Road, Front Royal.

The release states, “The child was transported by EMS to Warren Memorial Hospital where the child passed away.”

According to the release, deputies began investigating the circumstances of the death, which led to Ritchie’s arrest. He is being held in the RSW Regional Jail.

Lt. Phillip Henry, who is handling the investigation, did not return a call regarding the case and Warren County Sheriff D. T. McEathron indicated that no information—other than the media release—was available.

Anyone with information regarding the case is encouraged to contact Lt. Phillip Henry at the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at (540) 635-4128 or (540) 635-7100.

Crime/Court
State police seek suspect in debit card theft
November 2, 2017
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The Virginia State Police are reaching out to the public to identify and locate a suspect wanted for theft and illegal use of a debit card in Chesterfield, Henrico and Fauquier counties.

The debit card was stolen from a Pulaski County, Va., resident and used Oct. 4-5, 2017, for ATM cash withdrawals and purchases in three counties.

VSP spokeswoman Corrine Geller said in a Wednesday evening email that one suspect used the card at a Sheetz in Warrenton, Va., Best Buy in Glen Allen, Va., and WaWa gas stations on West Broad Street and Midlothian Turnpike.

The suspect is described as being a male between 35 and 40 years of age with a strong Indian accent. He is between 5 feet and 5′ 3″ in height with thin facial hair. The suspect typically wears a hat and sunglasses.

 

Ms. Geller said anyone with information about the identity of this suspect and/or his crimes is asked to call the Virginia State Police at 804-553-3445 or #77 on a cell phone or contact Virginia State Police by email at ques[email protected]

Crime/Court
Middletown man arrested in early-morning Halloween B&E
November 1, 2017
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The Warren County Sheriff’s Office responded to an early-morning report of a breaking and entering in Middletown on Halloween morning, October 31.  Deputies were dispatched at 1 a.m. to a residence at 61 Jackson Place.  A male suspect was encountered inside the address.  Upon arrival of the deputies the suspect exited the residence and ran toward a wooded area in the back.

A sheriff’s office K-9 unit then assisted in locating the suspect, who was apprehended.  According to a press release the suspect incurred minor injuries during the apprehension but refused medical treatment at the scene.

Jacksons Place B&E suspect David Lussier – Photo/RSW Jail

The suspect was identified as David Lussier, 34 years old, of 134 Jackson Place, Middletown.  Lussier was subsequently charged with 18.2-91 Enter Dwelling at night with intent (Felony), 18.2-94 Possession of Burglary tools (Felony), 18.2-137 Intent to damage property (Misdemeanor) and 18.2-96 Petit Larceny (Misdemeanor).

Lussier was transported to the RSW Regional Jail where he was held without bond.  Following a hearing in Warren County General District Court on Wednesday morning, November 1, Lussier continues to be held at RSW without bond.  A second hearing was scheduled for December 27, at 2:30 p.m.

Crime/Court
Evidence hearing continued to December in Hoyle murder case
October 20, 2017
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David Glynn Hoyle, Jr. shortly after his arrival at RSW Jail following the March 27 shooting death of his stepfather Warren Howard Ramsey – Photos/RSW Jail

A hearing on motions to suppress additional evidence in the first-degree murder case of a 32-year-old Front Royal man accused of shooting his stepfather to death in the Grand Avenue family home on March 27 has been continued to December 20, at 1:30 p.m.

Defendant David Glynn Hoyle, Jr. was in court for the 9 a.m. docket of Warren County Circuit Court on Friday, October 20.  However, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond informed Judge Ronald Napier that the prosecution and the Public Defenders Office defense team of Tim Coyne and Ryan Nuzzo had agreed to a delay to allow the court and attorneys time to review the evidence in question.  Hammond observed that she had just received copies of the evidence the previous day.

That evidence was described as transcripts of over three hours of video, including FRPD Investigator Landin Waller’s interview with the defendant in the aftermath of the shooting death of Warren Howard Ramsey.

Hoyle is accused of shooting his 58-year-old stepfather multiple times in the Grand Avenue home they shared with what police described as “other family members”.  Front Royal Police responded to a report of a shooting at 208 Grand Avenue at 10:49 p.m. Monday evening, March 27.  Hoyle was present when police arrived, and later confessed to the murder, according to the criminal complaint.  Ramsey was pronounced dead at the scene.  The Waller interview video likely contains the reported confession.

According to the criminal complaint, Hoyle walked into the living room where Ramsey was seated on the couch and began shooting without any words being exchanged between the two.  Much of the information in the criminal complaint was based on eyewitness observations by a family member who was not named in the report.  A revolver believed to be the murder weapon was recovered by police, though exactly where was not cited in the criminal complaint.

Looking east toward the 208 Grand Avenue site of fatal March 27 domestic shooting. Photo/Roger Bianchini

After passing an envelope to the court during the Friday hearing, Hammond described its contents as two CD’s, one containing Waller’s interview with Hoyle, the other assembled from four police responder body cameras at the scene and in the immediate aftermath of the murder.

Judge Napier observed that it would probably be best for him to review the video with the corresponding transcripts in hand in close proximity to the re-scheduled suppression hearing.  After the December date was set and with a two-month delay looming, Hoyle was called to testify that he was willing to waive his speedy trial rights.

“Yes, your honor,” the defendant replied to Napier’s question whether he had discussed the matter with his attorneys and felt the delay was in his best interest.

Mental state

During an April 4 hearing in Warren County General District Court, Hoyle attorney Tim Coyne requested a mental competency evaluation of his client.  At that time Coyne told Judge W. Dale Houff he was not sure his client could understand the court proceedings or could assist in preparing a defense.  Houff asked Coyne if he was going to file an insanity plea for his client.  Coyne replied that the defense would await the result of the state mental competency evaluation before making a decision in that regard.

No mention of the competency evaluation was made in court on October 20 and Coyne later declined comment on the status of the evaluation.

Hoyle missed his first two scheduled court appearances on March 28 and 29 and his RSW Jail mug shot shows him in a strap-on vest resembling a flak jacket.  When he appeared in court later on March 29 by remote video from the jail, he was still wearing the strap-on vest.  While HIPPA statutes now prevent comment on the medical status of inmates, such a protective vest and the two failures to transport could indicate Hoyle was initially on suicide watch at the jail.

Hoyle has been charged with First Degree Murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a murder attempt.  Conviction on the murder charge carries a 20 years to life in prison sentencing range; the firearms charge has a minimum-mandatory of three years in prison.  Hoyle remains incarcerated without bond at RSW Regional Jail.

Note the protective strap-on vest Hoyle sported for at least two days after being charged for the murder of his stepfather.

 

Crime/Court
37-year-old Front Royal man charged with sexual assault of 10-year-old girl
October 20, 2017
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On Friday, October 20, the Front Royal Police issued the following press release:

On Thursday, October 19, 2017, Front Royal Police officers responded to Shenandoah Motel for a report of sexual assault of a juvenile.  It was reported to officers that a 10-year-old female had been sexually assaulted by Justice Morgan Henry, a 37-year-old Front Royal resident.

Sexual assault of a minor suspect Justice Morgan Henry – Photo/RSW Regional Jail

The juvenile disclosed that Henry had walked her from the motel to a wooded area in town, where he sexually assaulted her.  She then advised Henry walked her to a second location and sexually assaulted her a second time.  Henry was later questioned by Detectives and made statements that corroborated the statements made by the victim.

Henry was subsequently arrested and charged with several felony charges, including: Object Sexual Penetration, Aggravated Sexual Battery, Forcible Sodomy, and Taking Indecent Liberties with a Child.  Henry is currently being held at RSW Regional Jail without bond.

The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending.  Anyone with information pertaining to this case is asked to contact Detective Zachary King of the Front Royal Police Department at (540) 636-2208 or [email protected]

Crime/Court
Court upholds life sentence in Funk-Curtis murder conviction
September 19, 2017
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Simon Funk, Jr., whose body was discovered in a remote area of Shenandoah Farms on Dec. 10, 2014. Courtesy Photo

“I’m glad it’s over – and that he finally more or less admitted he murdered my son.” – Those were the words of the mother of Simon Funk Jr. shortly after Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey upheld the jury recommendations of life in prison and the maximum $100,000 fine on the First Degree Murder conviction of Clay Marshall Curtis.

On June 29, the 64-year-old Curtis was convicted of the murder of the Front Royal Yellow Cab driver he had befriended three months earlier.  Over an hour-and-a-half of argument and deliberation, the defense team of David Hensley and John Bell first argued to overturn the verdict against their client based on some evidentiary objections; then to ease the sentence to give their client some hope of parole before he dies.

However, Athey upheld his trial rulings on admissibility of both evidence and testimony, in denying those motions.  Following the court’s rulings, the now-convicted murderer of 42-year-old Simon Funk spoke for the first time in the courtroom when asked if he had anything to say.

“Although I don’t agree with the verdict I want to express my sadness and sorrow to the mother and sister and family and friends – I feel very sorry for them to have to go through all this pain and suffering and aggravation,” Curtis said as Funk’s mother, Connie Clatterbuck, sister Theresa Jenkins and stepfather William Clatterbuck listened from the courtroom’s front row behind the prosecution table.

Convicted murderer Clay Marshall Curtis will spend the rest of his life in prison. Cour-tesy Photo

Curtis then turned his attention to his own future, asking the court to order him placed “in a single cell by myself” after his arrival at the prison that will be his home for the rest of his life.

While not dismissive of the request, Athey also denied it, explaining he felt that the Department of Corrections officials would be in the best position to make the judgment on Curtis’s place in the penal system.  Citing pre-sentencing testimony by a forensic psychologist called by the defense concerning Curtis’s history of childhood abuse in his family setting, and further institutional abuse over 30 years of his adult life spent in prison, the judge observed, “Considering your past history you may be in a position for that (requested isolation).”

Athey also upheld the mandatory minimum sentence of three years for the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, the sentences to run consecutively.

Following his rulings on Curtis’s convictions, Athey agreed to waive prosecution on a separate, related charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  A second trial had been scheduled on that charge, which was separated from the other cases due to the prejudicial nature of introducing Curtis’s past criminal history into the murder, attempted murder and use of a firearm charges he faced initially.  The jury acquitted Curtis of the attempted murder of a neighbor who confronted him in Faye Curtis’s yard.  The man, a trained martial arts expert believed Curtis tried to run him down as he fled the scene in Funk’s van.

The court also granted a motion for $4,587 of additional funds to compensate the private investigator assisting the defense team in preparing its case; and indicated it would entertain motions for additional attorneys’ fees related to the case.

Following the resolution of all the motions to be heard during the Monday, September 18 hearing, Hensley agreed to serve as Curtis’s court-appointed counsel in a planned appeal of the convictions.  The court also allowed Bell to withdraw from further representation due to his past representation of a prosecution witness upon which some of the defense motions to overturn were based.

Background

It was that witness, inmate Michael Turner’s testimony that provided much of the basis for the defense motions to overturn the conviction.  At one point Turner mentioned Curtis’s comment on his previous incarceration in federal prison, which the defense objected to at the time as potential cause to declare a mistrial.

Turner also seemed to confirm Simon Funk’s girlfriend Carla Elliott’s response to a defense question as to whether she had ever had sexual relations with the man accused of murdering her boyfriend after she introduced him into their lives.

“Did you have sexual relations with Clay Curtis?” defense co-counsel Hensley asked Elliott.

“He’s gay – absolutely NOT,” Elliott replied.

Turner, Curtis’s fellow inmate at RSW Regional Jail, testified that having overheard his earlier discussion with another inmate about his wife’s betrayal, Curtis told him about problems in an earlier marriage, observing, “You can’t trust women.”  Commenting of Turner’s current predicament of being jailed after a betrayal by his wife, Turner reported Curtis telling him, “I’m sort of in a situation like that now.  I care about him and do things for him but he don’t want to deal with me no more.  But I care about him; so, I shot him and wrapped him in a blanket.”

Funk’s body was found in a shallow grave, covered by sticks, wrapped in a comforter-blanket matching bedding found in the Relax Inn room Curtis was in the process of moving out of.  Funk was shot twice, once in the stomach and once in the back of the head.  Investigators testified one comforter was missing from the Relax Inn room when it was searched following the discovery of Funk’s body; and receipt of information he was last seen giving Curtis a ride to pick additional possessions up from the room.

The day Funk was murdered, December 9-10, 2014, Curtis had attempted to move in with Funk and Elliott after leaving his most recent motel room at the Relax Inn.  Turned away, testimony indicated Curtis solicited a ride from Funk into the remote Shenandoah Farms neighborhood where his sister, Faye Curtis lived.  It was near Faye Curtis’s property where Funk’s body was discovered, and where a neighbor placed Curtis in Funk’s van the night Funk disappeared, the night before his body was discovered.

Following Curtis’s June 29 conviction, the sentencing phase saw each side present one witness.  The prosecution called the victim’s mother, who sobbed through a painful recounting of her son and what his life and loss meant to her.  The defense presented a Forensic Psychologist who had studied the defendant’s mental and criminal history.

It was a history that saw the short and slightly-built Clay Curtis spend 30 of his 64 years – most of his adult life – in prison, often dealing with physical and sexual abuse.  Despite that history, Doctor Sara Boyd testified Curtis appeared to feel more comfortable in prison than in an outside world “that moved too fast” and uncertainly for him.

Testimony indicated that after befriending Curtis through her job cleaning rooms at the Front Royal Motel, Carla Elliott’s introduction of Curtis into the couple’s life led to an increasingly symbiotic relationship.  According to Elliott that relationship included Curtis buying her a car for $3,000 and spending another $2,100 on repairs in exchange for rides when he needed them, among other favors.  Elliott also testified she signed on to Curtis’s move into the Relax Inn when he did not have proper ID.  Eventually, Curtis was locked out of that motel leading to a December 9, 2014 attempt to move in with the couple.

Forensic psychologist Sara Boyd’s defense pre-sentencing testimony indicated that perhaps Simon Funk and Elliott’s rejection of Curtis’s request to move in with them after he was locked out of the most recent of a series of motel rooms he lived in may have factored into Funk’s murder – and Curtis’s return to the more predictable, if also threatening, confines of prison.

Crime/Court
Powell-Adams Kerfoot Avenue murder trial set for February
September 18, 2017
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Bailey Powell’s RSW Jail mugshot

The then 17-year-old accused of stabbing his 19-year-old girlfriend to death on Kerfoot Avenue on March 25 has a trial date set for the week of February 12, 2018.  Now 18-year-old Bailey Lincoln Powell was indicted as an adult in Warren County Circuit Court on June 5, for the Second Degree Murder of Leah Adams.

Told by defense counsel during a procedural hearing on Monday, September 18, that a minimum of three to four days were anticipated for trial, Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey Jr. set an entire week’s docket – February 12 to 16 – aside for the trial.  Any pre-trial motions were scheduled for the 1 p.m. docket of February 7.

However, it is expected other evidentiary hearings may be scheduled on coming Circuit Court “term days” generally scheduled for first Mondays of the month in the run up to the trial.  Among evidence likely to be reviewed prior to trial is the result of a psyche evaluation ordered to determine the defendant’s competency to stand trial.  Testimony at a May 25 preliminary hearing described the fatal incident as occurring during a drug-induced paranoid state.

After the September 18 hearing was adjourned after seven minutes, a quick call back of the defendant and attorneys was sent out to establish for the court record that Powell had waived his speedy trial rights.  Brought back to the courtroom in his black and white-striped RSW maximum security clothes, Judge Athey asked Powell if he had discussed the waiver of his speedy trial right.

“Yes, your honor,” Powell replied.

Asked if he agreed that despite his incarceration awaiting trial, the waiver of that right to a speedy trial was in his best interest, Powell said, “Yes sir.”

At 2:21 p.m. court was re-adjourned after a total of 11 minutes of discussion of the schedule leading up to and through trial.

Background

As reported by the Royal Examiner at the time the indictment against Powell was filed in adult court after he turned 18 and was transferred to the RSW Regional Jail from a Frederick County juvenile facility:

The grand jury indictment against Powell states, “On or about March 25, 2017 in the County of Warren, Bailey Lincoln Powell, did unlawfully, feloniously and maliciously kill and murder Leah Marie Adams in violation of Section 18.2-32 of the Code of Virginia, as amended.

Leah Adams – a life cut tragically short

Powell was initially charged in Juvenile Court with Second Degree Murder, a Class 2 felony that carries a sentence of 5 to 40 years in prison.  He has also been charged with aggravated assault.  He has been held without bond since his arrest in the neighborhood where Adams died shortly after the incident transpired.

Initially held in the Frederick County Juvenile Detention facility, Powell was transferred to RSW Regional Jail after turning 18 on May 9.

An evidentiary hearing in circuit court was scheduled for June 29, at 8:45 a.m.  According to Powell attorneys David Hensley and Beau Bassler that hearing involves seeking an independent lab analysis of both the victim and their client’s blood.  State labs do not test for LSD, the drug allegedly involved in the fatal incident.

According to social media posts of both the victim and her accused murderer, Powell and Adams had been in a relationship for about 10 weeks at the time of Adams’ death.

According to testimony at an emotional May 25 hearing open to the public in Warren County Juvenile Court, Powell had ingested LSD, a psychotropic drug the day of Adams murder.  Witnesses painted a picture of a suspect thrown into acute paranoia by his drug intake, then deciding to flee Adams’ Cherrydale Avenue home, where several friends were gathered, in her vehicle.

Adams attempt to regain control of her car around 10:30 p.m. on a Friday evening ended about 3 blocks.  Law enforcement witnesses said Powell told them Adams threw the car into park from the passenger seat on the 100 block of Kerfoot Avenue, across the street from the Warren County skatepark and soccerplex.

Police warning flare residue at Kerfoot Ave. scene

Neighborhood witnesses said the car began to move as Adams was attempting to enter through the open driver’s side door.  As the car swerved to the right, northbound, eventually knocking two mailboxes over, Adams fell into the street.  Witnesses said she rose screaming for help, falling at a driveway where she was initially assisted by residents, including a nurse and off-duty Front Royal policeman.

She was pronounced dead on arrival at Warren Memorial Hospital a short time later.

Powell was taken into custody after creating a disturbance about two blocks away, after abandoning Adams’ vehicle around the corner from where Adams fell fatally wounded from two stab wounds to the chest.

Witnesses who encountered Powell described him alternately asking people if they had a pistol and yelling for someone to kill him.  Law enforcement officers, who questioned Powell the night of the murder, testified on May 25 that the suspect stated at various times that he didn’t stab Adams; didn’t remember stabbing her; or that it was an accident.

The officer who stayed with Powell throughout the night in a room where he was held at Warren Memorial Hospital, said he repeatedly asked, “Is she dead?” or “Is she really dead?

Crime/Court Local News
Former teacher pleads no contest to felony child sex charges
July 18, 2017
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Steven Bretsch after his March 7 arrest – Photo/RSW Regional Jail

FRONT ROYAL — Former Skyline High School teacher Steven Roger Bretsch escaped a lengthy jail term Monday when Warren County Circuit Judge Ronald L. Napier accepted a plea agreement in the case that netted the 33-year-old Haymarket man a six-year sentence with all but one month suspended. He was charged with having sex with two of his students.

Bretsch pleaded no contest to two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child by a person in a custodial or supervisory relationship between March and June of 2016. The sexual encounters reportedly occurred in a Skyline High School classroom, according to a criminal complaint.

According to a March 8 press release from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, following interviews with the two students and school officials on March 7, 2017, Warren County and Prince William law enforcement searched Bretsch’s Haymarket home in Prince William County and then arrested him without incident. He was transferred from the Prince William County Adult Detention Center to the RSW Regional Jail.

 

Former Skyline High teacher and coach Steven Bretsch entered a plea agreement in Warren County Circuit Court Monday and was released from RSW Jail on Tuesday, after completing his sentence.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton said in an interview that the sentencing guidelines actually called for probation only, but the plea agreement was structured to include one month of incarceration. He also said that by accepting the plea agreement the two victims were spared from having to testify in the courtroom.

The agreement states that Bretsch must avoid all contact with his victims, and is required to register as a sex offender. The agreement further states that the former educator cannot be charged with any sexual misconduct from allegations involving these two victims from before March 2017, when Bretsch was arrested.

Bretsch was sentenced to a total of six years in jail, with all but one month suspended. He could have received up to 10 years combined for the two charges. He had been in custody at RSW Regional Jail since his June 29 hearing in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, and was given credit for time served. He was released from RSW Regional Jail on Tuesday, July 18, having completed his one-month incarceration. The former teacher must now complete three years of supervised probation.

Layton said that having a felony record and being a registered sex offender would have a “staggering and enormous impact” upon Bretch as he moves forward in life. He will never be able to teach again, nor will he likely be able to volunteer coach, as he did in northern Virginia, for a municipal soccer league.

Bretsch’s employment history indicates he was a teacher at Battlefield High School in Prince William County from 2007-14. No information on the reason for his departure from Battlefield High was available due to the privacy rules regarding personnel matters.

Bretsch served as a boys’ varsity soccer assistant coach at Battlefield; he also served in that capacity at Skyline High.

 

Crime/Court Local News
Skyline teacher indicted on child sex crimes, likely to enter plea
July 6, 2017
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Accused teacher Steven Bretsch after his March 7 arrest – Photo/RSW Regional Jail

FRONT ROYAL – Former Skyline High School teacher Steven Bretsch was indicted Wednesday by a Warren County grand jury, accused of improper sexual contact with two female students.

The 33-year-old Bretsch, of Haymarket, is charged with two felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child by a person in a custodial relationship.  Two other charges were dropped when Bretsch waived his right to a preliminary hearing in June.

Bretsch’s attorney, Steven Duckett, was not in the courtroom on Wednesday.  Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton said that the former educator is expected to enter a plea agreement at his next hearing date, July 17, at 1:30 p.m. in Warren County Circuit Court.

A criminal complaint cites three specific incidents of sexual contact between Bretsch and the girls during a four-month period between March 1 and June 30, 2016.  Bretsch was arrested on March 7, 2017.  All three of the alleged incidents allegedly occurred at Skyline High School.

Steven Bretsch – Photo WCPS website

According to the March 8 press release from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, following interviews with the two students and school officials on March 7, 2017, Warren County and Prince William law enforcement searched Bretsch’s Haymarket home in Prince William County and then arrested him without incident.

He was transferred from the Prince William County Adult Detention Center to the RSW Regional Jail.  He is being held in lieu of bond.  Bretsch faces up to five years in prison on each conviction.

Crime/Court Local News
Hoyle indicted for stepfather’s murder
July 5, 2017
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David Glynn Hoyle, Jr.

Front Royal resident David Glynn Hoyle Jr., 33, was indicted Wednesday by the Warren County Grand Jury on a charge of murder in the first-degree and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Hoyle is accused of shooting his stepfather, Warren Howard Ramsey, 58, multiple times on the evening of March 27 in a home they shared on Royal Avenue.

The police report states that according to an unidentified family member, Hoyle walked into the living room where Ramsey was seated on the couch and began shooting without any words being exchanged between the two. Hoyle was present at the scene when police arrived and later confessed to the murder, according to the criminal complaint.

Police responded to the report of a shooting at 10:49 p.m., Monday evening, March 27. A revolver believed to be the murder weapon was recovered by police, though exactly where was not cited in the criminal complaint.

Conviction on the murder charge carries a 20 years to life in prison sentencing range; the firearms charge has a minimum-mandatory of three years in prison.

A preliminary hearing has been set for July 25 in Warren County Circuit Court. Hoyle remains incarcerated in the R-S-W Regional Jail.