McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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November 7, 2013

Charges reduced in alcohol death case

McALESTER — Amended charges have been filed against two men in connection with the alcohol-related death of a 19-year-old McAlester man last January.

Jackson Lloyd Herrick, 20, and Justin Hatcher, 23, had been charged in September with manslaughter in connection with the death of William Hatridge, 19, of McAlester.

On Monday, District 18  Assistant District Attorney Justin Garrett amended the charges to one count each of furnishing alcoholic beverage to a minor.

Herrick and Hatcher had pleaded not guilty on Sept. 6 to the original charges of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of providing alcohol to a person under 21 in connection with Hatridge’s death on Jan. 26.

Thursday, the prosecutor said the charges were amended based on plea negotiations with defense attorneys in the case.

Arraignments for the two men on the reduced charges is set for Wednesday.

“We can’t discuss the details until the agreement is made at the Nov. 13 court hearing,” Garrett said when asked what plea offer had been made in the case.

Herrick and Hatcher face up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. They had originally faced up to 14 years in prison and up to $11,000 in fines.

Herrick posted bail and was released from jail in September, and Hatcher was released from jail last month, according to court records.

A call seeking comment from Herrick’s attorney was not returned by presstime. A working telephone number for Hatcher could not be found.

According to an autopsy report, Hatridge died of “the acute toxic effects of ethyl alcohol” with a blood alcohol level of .35 percent.

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 an affidavit filed in court by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

The affidavit states Herrick had given $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 the day 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 went to the party, according to the affidavit, and set the alcohol on a flatbed trailer. Hatcher and Herrick left for about 30 minutes and when they returned, Hatcher reported he saw Hatridge drinking whiskey.

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 Hatridge and found he wasn’t breathing, according to the court record.

Herrick called 911 and another man performed CPR, 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 Herrick and Hatcher were of legal drinking age, the affidavit states.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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