McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

September 14, 2013

McAlester men enter pleas of not guilty in Jan. alcohol death

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer


Two McAlester men entered pleas of innocence this week to manslaughter charges for allegedly supplying alcohol to a 19-year-old  man found dead at a party in January.
Jackson Lloyd Herrick, 20, and Justin Hatcher, 23, pleaded not guilty Monday after they were charged Sept. 6 in Pittsburg County District Court with second-degree manslaughter in connection with the Jan. 26 death of William Hatridge, 19, of McAlester, court records state. They are also each charged with two counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor at the January party near Blocker.
Hatridge died of “the acute toxic effects of ethyl alcohol” with a blood alcohol level of .35 percent, according to a report from the Office Chief Medical Examiner in Tulsa.
According to an affidavit filed in court by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, at the time of his death Hatridge was with a large group of people at a birthday party in a pasture and wooded area near Blocker.
According to the affidavit filed in the case, Herrick gave $300 to Hatcher to buy two 30 packs of beer, two bottles of whiskey, two bottles of vodka and two bottles of energy drinks with alcohol for the party.
Hatcher and Herrick picked up Hatridge at about 9 on the morning on he died and took him to Fort Smith, Ark., where they had lunch, got haircuts, went shopping and the beer was purchased, the affidavit states.
After lunch they drove back to McAlester where Herrick gave Hatcher money to buy the whiskey, vodka and alcoholic energy drinks, prosecutors allege. 
The trio then drove to the party, according to the affidavit, and set the alcohol on a flatbed trailer and left. Hatcher and Herrick left for about 30 minutes and when they returned, Hatcher reported he saw Hatridge drinking whisky.
Then Hatcher reported seeing two males helping Hatridge over to the trailer, according to the affidavit, and noticed Hatridge was having a difficult time walking. Hatcher said he saw Hatridge lay down on his side and vomit, the affidavit states.
Hatcher said that about 30 minutes later he and another man went to check on the Hatridge they found he wasn’t breathing, according to the court record. Herrick called 911 and another man performed CPR on Hatridge, according to the affidavit.
Hatcher left with two other people, while Herrick and two others poured out beer, hid a bottle of whiskey under a brush hog and hid ice chests, witnesses told authorities.
Of nine witnesses interviewed who were at the party, only besides Herrick and Hatcher were of legal drinking age, the affidavit states.
If convicted of the charges against them, each faces up to 14 years in prison and up to $11,000 in fines.
Herrick has been released from jail after posting a $1,000 bond, and Hatcher remained in custody at the Pittsburg County jail in lieu of $5,000 on Saturday.
As conditions of their bonds, both men were instructed to not have contact with each other or any of the endorsed witnesses in the case, according to court records.
They are due back in court Friday for a preliminary hearing conference.
Herrick and Hatcher could not be reached for comment.
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.