Suspects plead not guilty of New Year's Day murder

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Letcher County Deputy Sheriff Mickey Stines guarded defendants Patrick Smith, left, and James Richard Huffman IV during arraignment Thursday in Letcher District Court. (Mountain Eagle photo)Letcher County Deputy Sheriff Mickey Stines guarded defendants Patrick Smith, left, and James Richard Huffman IV during arraignment Thursday in Letcher District Court. (Mountain Eagle photo)

The two Pike County men charged in the New Year’s Day murder of Michael Shane Hogg pleaded not guilty Thursday at arraignment in Letcher District Court.

James Richard Huffman IV, 34, of Pikeville, pleaded innocent to murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault in the early-morning stabbing death of Hogg, 24, a Kingscreek native who was home on winter break from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.

Pleading not guilty to charges of complicity to murder, criminal mischief, two counts of carrying a concealed deadly weapon and tampering with physical evidence was Patrick Smith, 27, of the Greasy Creek area near Pikeville.

Letcher District Judge Kevin Mullins set preliminary hearings for Huffman and Smith for 3 p.m. January 9. Mullins also ruled during Thursday’s hearing that both men, who are being held without bond in the Letcher County Jail, qualify for assistance from attorneys with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.

Huffman is accused of stabbing Hogg in the chest around 2 a.m. Wednesday during an altercation near the entrance of a parking lot on Hayes Street, also known as Back Street, in downtown Whitesburg. Two other Letcher County men, David Christopher Puckett, 23, of Jenkins, and Stacy Phillips, 23, of Thornton, also suffered stab wounds during the altercation. Puckett was treated at Holston Valley Hospital in Kingsport, Tenn., but was later released. Phillips was treated at Whitesburg ARH and released.

Authorities found Hogg, Puckett, Phillips and Samantha Mullins, 23, of Wise, Va., in a disabled vehicle in the parking lot of the Letcher County Recreation Center on River Road in Whitesburg after a call was made to 9-1-1. The four were trying to get to the Whitesburg hospital for treatment, but the vehicle’s tires had been slashed. Huffman and Smith were later taken into custody in the recreation center parking lot.

The victims of the crime had been celebrating the coming of the New Year earlier in the night at StreetSide Grill and Bar on Main Street in Whitesburg. Video surveillance recorded at StreetSide shows no sign of an altercation occurring there or the presence there of either Huffman or Smith, owner Charlie Wright said Wednesday.

Smith, who Kentucky State Police said was holding the knife used by Huffman, was originally charged with carrying a concealed weapon and tampering with evidence. The complicity to murder and criminal mischief charges were added before Thursday’s hearing. The mischief charge indicates that investigators believe that Smith is the person who flattened the tires on the vehicle occupied by the victims.

Authorities have not released what they believe is the motive behind the stabbings.

Funeral services for Hogg, son of Don and Connie Frazier Hogg of Kingscreek, will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Whitesburg First Baptist Church. Visitation, also at the church, will be held Friday from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Letcher Funeral Home of Whitesburg has charge of arrangements.

2014-01-01 / Front Page

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