The defense rested its case around 3:50 p.m. Monday in Marc Wilson’s trial for felony murder and other charges from the June 2020 shooting death of Haley Hutcheson, 17. Judge Ronnie Thompson then sent the jurors home with instructions to return at 8 a.m. Tuesday to hear the closing arguments.
Emma Rigdon, now 22, of Statesboro, who was dating Marc Wilson and riding in his car with him as the night of the shooting, June 13-14, 2020, testified Monday that the couple was approached by a pickup truck that tried to run them off Veterans Memorial Parkway. Some male occupants of the truck had their arms out the windows, “flipping off” the couple or in other words giving “the finger,” she said.
“We left the intersection and … the truck started swerving into our lane, they started, you know, going up and like coming back but stayed right there with us,” Ridgon said, sobbing. “I remember going on the rumble strips, and that’s whenever Marc shot to kind of say, ‘Hey, like leave us alone.’ We just wanted to go get food.”
Then the truck “kind of fell back” and came again, Rigdon testified, when Martha Hall, one of Wilson’s defense attorneys, put her on the stand and asked questions.
“They were hanging out the windows, moving their arms around and stuff. They were swerving…,” Rigdon said. “He shot towards the ground, just to say, like, ‘Hey, leave us alone.’”
But she also said that she had not known there were any girls in the truck only “guys,” and that she had not been able to see their facial features.
“I couldn’t hear the exact words, no, ma’am,” Rigdon said when Hall asked if she could hear what the truck occupants were saying.
Didn’t hear slurs
Cross-examining Rigdon a little later, Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black asked, “Isn’t it also true that you didn’t hear any racial slurs directed at you or Marc?”
“I didn’t hear any,” she said. “I had my dog in my lap. There were other things distracting me at that time.”
Black also had Rigdon acknowledge statements she made to police and in previous hearings that she had urged Wilson to put his gun away and not shoot.
During the encounter, Rigdon had heard, a loud noise, like a boom, but did not know what it was, she said.
At the time Hutcheson was riding with four other teenagers from Claxton in a crew-cab Chevrolet Silverado pickup. She was in the back seat, in the middle, while Mason Glisson was driving, with Ashton Deloach beside him in the front passenger seat and Luke Conley and Marci Neagley in the back seat on either side of Hutcheson.
A bullet entered the truck’s back glass near the center, leaving a somewhat oval-shaped hole through the glass, and some shattering inside the truck, according to experts’ testimony. The entry wound to Hutcheson’s head was also described as ovoid by a medical examiner, and two experts who testified said that passing through glass could have caused the bullet to start flipping.
The jury has heard somewhat contradictory opinions from a prosecution and defense expert witnesses about relative positions of the car and truck when the shots were fired.
Statesboro police Detective Keith Holloway, testifying as an expert in crime scene processing and reconstruction, gave an opinion that that the shot that entered the back glass was fired from between the 3:30 and 6 o’clock positions, meaning from roughly 45 degrees to the right of the truck to 90 degrees, or straight behind it. Holloway said he believed the shot was fired from no further forward than around the rear corner of the truck bed.
In addition to the bullet – or actually the lead core of what had been a jacketed bullet – that was removed from Hutcheson’s head in the autopsy, police recovered a second lead core from the front driver’s-side tire of Glisson’s truck. Firearms and ballistics expert Jay Jarvis, hired by the defense to review the state’s evidence, testified that this bullet and sign of a bullet strike under the truck frame were “consistent with those shots being fired from in front of the truck.”
After Wilson and Rigdon turned left onto Fair Road, they didn’t go directly to her home, but to the home of a friend of Wilson’s, James Dixon. Wilson attempted to borrow Dixon’s truck, but Dixon declined, noting that he had to drive his children somewhere the next day, he testified last week.
Wilson then returned to his home – the home of his parents at Sharpsburg in Coweta County – in his own car, a blue Ford Fusion. Statesboro police who went to Sharpsburg to search the vehicle reported finding no bullet holes or other damage to the vehicle. No defense witnesses contradicted this.
Although he had returned home to Sharpsburg on Sunday, June 14, it was only after hearing from the detectives Tuesday, June 16, that Wilson told his parents about the incident, both testified Monday. But on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Marc Wilson, accompanied by his father, Deron “Pat” Wilson, and defense attorney Francys Johnson, turned himself in at the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and surrendered the gun.
His mother, Amanda Wilson, testified Monday afternoon. Tearful, she said that when her son told her what happened, they had collapsed on her kitchen floor as she tried to hold him up, hugging him and telling him it would be OK.
“‘N…, your life doesn’t matter,’ ‘I was going to die.’ They said, ‘I’m going to kill you,” she blurted out in court, as Black objected that this was irrelevant and hearsay.
Judge Ronald K. Thompson sustained the objected and instructed jurors to disregard the comment. Nobody who was actually there on the parkway that night has testified that this was said. Marc Wilson did not testify, as is his right.
Over the four days of testimony, the jury heard from three of the four surviving occupants of the pickup truck –Glisson and passengers Deloach and Neagley – with varying accounts of their actions. But all have testified that none of the five had a gun. Glisson and Deloach have acknowledged they were drinking, while all the truck’s occupants were underage.
The jury did not hear directly from the other male passenger, Luke Conley. As he had done in previous hearings, Conley asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, since Statesboro police, early in their investigation, charged him with misdemeanor obstruction for allegedly giving conflicting information.
Conley appeared Monday with his own attorney, Cindy Delgado, and again indicated he would not testify. Thompson, conducting the trial in Bulloch County Superior Court, heard this during one of many times the jury has been out of the courtroom during interactions involving the judge and attorneys.
Before the trial, Thompson had ruled to exclude information the defense sought to introduce involving alleged “prior bad acts” by Conley or other truck occupants. But Thompson allowed the jury to hear brief answers from a few witnesses who were questioned about Conley’s reputation.