McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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March 25, 2014

Second guilty plea in connection with alcohol-related death of 19-year-old

McALESTER — In September, Jackson Herrick, 20, and Justin Hatcher, 23, were charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor in the January 2013 death of William Hatridge, 19, of McAlester.

In November, District 18 Assistant District Attorney Justin Garrett amended the charge to one count of furnishing alcoholic beverage to a minor. Hatcher pleaded guilty to the new charge in January and judgment and sentencing were deferred for five years and he was fined $250.

Last week, Herrick pleaded guilty to the reduced charge and judgment and sentencing were deferred for five years and he was fined $250.

On Friday, defense attorney Brecken Wagoner of McAlester said members of the victim’s family in the case had testified they were “okay” with the plea agreement. Herrick, meanwhile, “is taking his probation seriously” and has been working, his attorney said.

Officials say 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 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 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 the money to buy alcohol, 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 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 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.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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