Murder charges dropped; men cleared of all charges
by Tom Chillemi
Three men who had initially been charged with first-degree murder walked out of Middlesex Circuit Court as free men Tuesday after the murder charges were dropped and Judge R. Bruce Long dismissed two remaining misdemeanor charges after a six-hour trial.
The men, who were working as security personnel at Bush Park Camp-Resort in Wake, had been charged with first-degree murder in connection to the death of Edwin Barry Hughes, 49, of Wake following a physical altercation that occurred on May 11 at the campground.
An assistant state medical examiner had initially concluded Hughes’ death was the result of the physical altercation, explained Middlesex Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Hurd at the start of Tuesday’s trial. However, the medical examiner amended his autopsy in October, a few weeks before the trial, finding that Hughes’ fatal heart attack was not the result of the altercation, said Hurd.
Hurd dropped the murder charge against the three men, but attempted to prove they were guilty of two misdemeanor charges—assault and battery by a mob, and abduction.
The men who were on trial for misdemeanor charges were Phillip ”Bubba” Harris, 57, of Wake; Christopher “Rooster” Fogg, 40, of Aylett; and Jorge Torres, 29, of Yorktown.
Each man had his own defense attorney. However, the defense did not have to present their cases. Judge Long granted the defense motion to dismiss the charges following the prosecutor’s case.
During the six-hour trial, witnesses for the prosecution told a story of what happened late on May 11, 2013.
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Change in Chief Medical Examiner’s autopsy report was reason murder charges were dropped
Middlesex County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Hurd issued the following statement on October 31, explaining why the first-degree murder charges against three security guards involved in the altercation at Bush Park Camp-Resort (see story above) were not prosecuted.
“Before the defendants were charged, the detective and I spoke at length with the assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy. Dr. Whaley explained his conclusions, including that the altercation increased Mr. Hughes blood pressure, being held down put pressure on his body and there was a lack of oxygen, the stress of the altercation contributed to the abnormal heart rhythm, that the lungs were still working but not enough blood was pumping, and that death resulted,” said Hurd.
“Dr. Whaley said that the intoxication and enlarged heart alone would not have caused the death, in that had Hughes been left alone, he would have lived. The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office and the hospital provided the Medical Examiner’s Office with all relevant information to assist the medical examiner in determining the manner of death of Mr. Hughes. This included the deputies report, the dispatcher’s call sheet, which listed all times of arrival and transmissions by deputies and emergency personnel, and the rescue squad report,” continued Hurd.
“Based on the facts of the case, Dr. Whaley’s opinion that the altercation caused the death, and after researching case law, indictments were prepared and a grand jury indicted,” said Hurd.
“Just over two weeks before trial, Dr. Whaley informed me that he met with the defense attorneys and they discussed that Mr. Hughes was breathing and had a pulse after the altercation, including at least 32 minutes between the arrival of a deputy and the ambulance. The Medical Examiner’s Office reviewed this information, all of which was in the reports they possessed on the day of the autopsy and prior to their first report, and concluded that the span of time was inconsistent with death resulting from the altercation. Thus, the new conclusion was not based on new information, but rather on what they already had. Further, when speaking initially to Dr. Whaley, he was asked about the deceased having a pulse and breathing, and then turning purple once rescue turned him over, as I was concerned about allegations of an intervening cause,” said Hurd.
“The detective and I made an appointment to see the Chief Medical Examiner, and seven days before trial were handed an amended autopsy. Thus, the murder charges were nolle prosequied,” said Hurd.