Black waives right to hearing
HUNTINGTON -- Rodney Bruce Black of Barboursville, who is charged in the Jan. 25 shooting death of brothers Garrick and Carl Hopkins, waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Tuesday in Cabell County Magistrate Court.
His appearance in court was accompanied by a joint statement issued by the Cabell County Prosecutor's Office and Public Defenders Office explaining the reason for the waiver and stating that race was not a factor in the Hopkins brothers' deaths. The defendant is white, and the Hopkinses were black.
"A thorough investigation of this case has been done by both sides, and there is no indication thus far of race being a factor in the deaths of Garrick and Carl Hopkins," the joint statement said.
The attorneys' offices chose to mention race in their statement because they've been fielding questions about motive, Chiles said.
"We wanted to dispel that rumor before it gained any ground because there is nothing to it. There doesn't appear to be," Chiles said.
The joint statement also expressed condolences to the Hopkins family. A family spokesman said the family had no comment on the attorneys' statement about race.
The case against Black will be presented to a grand jury, which could occur in March or in May, Chiles said. Attorney Kim Carico is the public defender representing Black.
Black, 62, of 12 Lane Drive, faces two murder charges after calling 911 on the afternoon of Jan. 25 and telling dispatchers that he shot two men who were getting into his outbuilding. It was determined that the property that he considered his had actually sold recently.
He reported that he shot two men from his bedroom window with a .243-caliber rifle. An investigation revealed he had 54 guns in his home and frequented a local shooting range.
Garrick Hopkins, 60, of Milton, and Carl Hopkins Jr., 61, of Oak Hill, W.Va., died at the scene. Garrick Hopkins, in fact, owned the outbuilding after recently purchasing the nearly one-acre tract of land on which the building sat from Black's sister.
He was retired and planning to move into a modular home there with his wife. He took his brother that day to show him the site.
The joint statement from the prosecutor's and public defender's offices said Black's waiver of a preliminary hearing was in exchange for an "open file agreement" on the ongoing investigation in the case.
That means the prosecution is giving the defense a copy of its entire file on the case, Chiles said. It's not a regular occurrence in the discovery process but it seemed appropriate in this case, he said.
"It's a good investigation and the case is moving along well," he said. "It's not uncommon at all."
The scene where the shooting took place involved three tracts of land, all of which were initially owned by Rodney Black's parents, Carl Edward and Juanita H. Black.
The property was left to Juanita Black upon her husband's death in 2008. Her last will and testament further split the property in July 2010, with Rodney Black receiving the residence while his sister Judy Ranson administered the estate and its remaining tracts of land.
Ranson sold both tracts of land Jan. 15, saying that they had been on the market since their mother's death. The sale was intended to help pay off their mother's bills.
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