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Jury hears from Marc Wilson via recording of phone call with cops
State rests its case; trial to continue on Monday
Maci Neagley cries while giving testimony for the state Friday about the night her friend Haley Hutcheson died of a gunshot during William Marcus “Marc” Wilson's felony murder trial related to the death of Hutcheson.
Maci Neagley cries while giving testimony for the state Friday about the night her friend Haley Hutcheson died of a gunshot during William Marcus “Marc” Wilson's felony murder trial related to the death of Hutcheson. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

While William Marcus Wilson sat silent at the defense table Friday in his trial for felony murder, the jury heard Wilson’s voice in a recording of a phone conversation he had with Statesboro Police Department detectives two days after Haley Hutcheson was shot to death. 

Although played at the behest of the prosecution, the recording seemed to present Wilson’s self-defense claim for why he fired shots with his 9 mm Taurus semiautomatic pistol from his car on Veterans Memorial Parkway the night of June 13-14, 2020.

Hutcheson, 17, riding with four other then-teenagers from Claxton in a four-door Chevrolet pickup, was between two of them in the back seat when a bullet passed through the middle of the back glass and into her head in back, behind her right ear, resulting in fatal injuries described by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation associate medical examiner and shown to the jury in graphic images. 

That night between midnight and 1 a.m., Wilson was driving his Ford Fusion accompanied by his then-girlfriend Emma Rigdon and her little dog, on their way back to Rigdon’s apartment from Taco Bell. Wilson’s defense attorneys have maintained that Wilson, identified as biracial, and Rigdon, who is white, were subjected to a racist attack by occupants of the truck. 

Call with detectives  

The morning of June 16, 2020, two Statesboro Police Department investigators – Detective Travis Kreun, who was on the witness stand Friday, and now-Capt. Jared Akins – visited Rigdon at her Statesboro apartment. While they were there, Wilson, who had returned to his parents’ home at Sharpsburg, called Rigdon, and the detectives were then able to speak to him over Rigdon’s phone. 

“I don’t know if they can talk to you over the phone, they’re right here,” Rigdon could be heard, in a distraught tone, asking Wilson to talk to the detectives. First Kreun told Wilson they wanted to hear from him what had happened. Then Akins called Rigdon “a sweetheart” who was “going through a rough patch” and noted that it was “a death investigation” and “a serious matter.” 

“Me and my girlfriend were very scared that night,” Wilson said, in the recorded conversation. “We’re in the car, and they start pulling up … yelling racial slurs, and you know just as well as me with everything going on … I’m not going to let me and my girlfriend be run off the road. ...” 

When asked what the other vehicle had done, he said, “They were just swerving towards us and all; they were trying to drive us off the road. … I didn’t know what else to do, so I grabbed my, uh, my piece and I shot under the vehicle.” 

He said the other vehicle had put on the brakes and fallen back, so he put his gun back under the seat, but the truck approached again. 

“I shot three, at the time I shot three,” he said when asked how many shots he fired.  But then he seemed to say that the truck approached again and he shot two or more times. 

“They came back up on me and a I heard this loud, like, ‘Boom!’ into my car …”  he said. Thinking they had hit his car with something, Wilson said, he “shot back.” “I was shooting towards the ground, and I tried to, but there were two or three more times like that.” 

One of the detectives, apparently Akins, could be heard asking Wilson if he knew what it was that hit his vehicle. “I don’t. It was dark… ,” Wilson  said. 

William Marcus Wilson listens intently to a recording of his first conversation over the phone with Statesboro Police detectives following the shooting incident on June 14, 2020 as the prosecution continues its case in his felony murder trial related to the death of Haley Hutcheson on Friday, Aug.26 - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

“She was scared. She was freaking out,” he said of Rigdon, and seemed to add something about her having her dog with her. “We’ve had multiple racial run-ins lately… I’m not one to really get scared, but I was scared… ,” he said. “Then the next thing you know, they’re next to the car and they’re all out the window, like saying stuff, flipping me off.” 

When Akins asked if he had gotten a good look at the people in the truck, Wilson said, “Officer, honestly, I saw a whole bunch of males … a bunch of white guys.” 

“I don’t disbelieve your story, but … we’re just the ones that put the facts on a piece of paper,” Akins had said, telling Wilson the police would find out what happened and let the District Attorney’s Office make the decision. Recovering Wilson’s gun for testing “was going to be critical,” the detective said, and asked for his cooperation. 

“Listen, I’ll have to live with this the rest of my life, I reckon,” Wilson said. 

The next day, Wilson, accompanied by his father and Francys Johnson, who is now his lead defense attorney, turned himself in at the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and surrendered the gun. 

‘Conditional’ evidence 

Judge Ronald K. “Ronnie” Thompson allowed this portion of the recording to be played Friday, near the end of the third day of the trial in Bulloch County Superior Court, but instructed jurors that “sometimes evidence is admitted conditionally” and that they might consider it only if they determined that the statement was made voluntarily. Comments of other people heard on the recording were “offered only for context,” he said. 

But he declined to allow transcripts of the recording, which were proffered by the prosecutors, to be given to the jury, as these apparently contained some comments from before the phone call. 

Of the four surviving occupants of the truck, three have been called as witnesses during the trial. All three – driver Mason Glisson, Ashton Deloach, who was in the front passenger seat, and Maci Neagley, who was on the left side of the back seat beside Hutcheson, have testified that to their knowledge none of the truck’s occupants had a gun that night. 

‘Swapped lanes’ 

Neagley, called as a witness by Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black to testify Friday after the audio of Wilson, is now 17 and was 15 when her friend Haley Hutcheson was killed. She said the two vehicles “swapped lanes” and that the truck’s occupants thought the woman in the car was a young woman they knew from Claxton, who also testified briefly Friday as a defense witness. 

“I just hear something hit the back glass, and I didn’t know what it was at first, and I look over and everybody was bent  down, and … I processed just a little bit and I figured it as gunshots, and after I bent down and then the car passed, and then that’s when I realized Haley wasn’t getting back up,” Neagley said, sobbing and covering her face with her hand. 

Searching a 0.6-mile stretch of the parkway – Statesboro’s U.S. Highway 301 bypass – the morning after the shooting, police found a green Michelob Ultra Infusion can with a small puddle beside it. Occupants of the truck had a 12-pack of this beverage and the young men, all underage, were drinking it that evening, Glisson and DeLoach acknowledged. 

Police also found three 9mm shell casings that a weapons expert has testified were matched to Wilson’s pistol. Prosecution witnesses, including investigators and the three occupants of the truck who testified, have placed Wilson’s car beside or behind the pickup at points along the route, and never clearly in front. 

Black formally rested the state’s case against Wilson around 4 p.m. Friday, and the defense team called their first few witnesses. The trial is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. Monday.

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