Fayette County prosecutors presented 16 witnesses Monday and explained that they planned to call just one more Tuesday in the triple-murder trial of a Hico area man accused of gunning down three young men with an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle last Memorial Day on the road in front of his home.

Gary D. Martin, 57, of Stringtown Road, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the May 28 shooting deaths of Dustin Tyler Hughes, 22, of Hico, Christopher Lee Legg, 23, of Hico, and Carl Blaine Cox Jr., 24, of Edmond.

Cox’s father testified Monday that his son occasionally carried a pistol in a holster and had a permit to do so.

The Glock pistol and holster found badly damaged on Cox’s body that fateful May afternoon have become crucial to the case for both sides. Prosecutor Carl Harris and assistant prosecutor Jennifer Hewitt argue that Martin incapacitated Cox’s ability to use the pistol before fatally opening fire on all three men.

Martin’s attorneys, Charleston lawyers Ed Rebrook and Mike Clifford, counter with the possibility that Cox could very well have threatened Martin and Martin’s son first. They maintain that Martin’s actions were taken in self-defense, thus constituting “justifiable homicide.”

According to his testimony Monday, Cox contends that Martin stopped the trio in the road while Martin’s son “ambushed” them from a distance by firing the first few shots at them.

Cox claimed to have found evidence of cigarette butts, an empty beer can, a clip for a gun, “shooting glasses,” a bandana and a blood-soaked rag under a nearby pile of leaves. Detective Glen Chapman, of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, later confirmed finding those pieces of evidence.

Chapman conceded to Rebrook, however, that no testing for DNA or fingerprints took place on the items collected.

Fayette County Sheriff’s Department Detective Sgt. James K. Sizemore spoke of “chaos” and “riotous conditions” when he arrived at the scene of the shootings. Several family members of the victims arrived making threats and attempted to break through the police line that sealed off the crime scene.

By that time, police had Martin in one of their cruisers. They were so fearful for his safety, Mark Webb and Cpl. Jack Brown testified, that they made haste in removing Martin from the area.

Webb was a sheriff’s deputy at the time, and Brown still is. They were the arresting officers when, according to testimony from several witnesses for the state, Martin voluntarily surrendered himself and purportedly professed to being the shooter when police arrived.

As Brown recalled, Martin emerged with his hands raised in the air and said that he was “the one we were looking for.” That was right before things “began to deteriorate rapidly,” Brown asserted, adding that the arrival of the victims’ relatives quickly converted the setting into a “physical situation.”

Rebrook wasted no time in pointing to Martin’s actions after the shootings as highly unusual for a murder suspect. “It’s the first time it’s ever happened to me,” Brown replied.

Rebrook had asked Brown how often he had responded to a shooting incident. Brown said he had responded to between 10 and 15 such calls in his career.

Other witnesses for the prosecution painted a slightly different portrait of the accused. “They (the deceased) don’t need no attention. I done it right,” Jan-Care Ambulance paramedic Nathan Coleman quoted Martin as saying when Coleman arrived at Stringtown Road.

Aaron Feltner, Coleman’s ambulance partner, corroborated that account. “You never had that happen before, did you?” Rebrook asked Feltner, regarding Martin’s admission that he was the gunman.

Feltner agreed when Rebrook posited that Martin never threatened or intimidated the paramedics, nor did he inhibit the performance of their duties in attempting to tend to the deceased men.

Randall Groves, Thomas Groves, Katrina Hawkins, Debra Ramsey and Patsy Hypes were all motorists in different vehicles on Stringtown Road shortly after the shootings. All five of them stated that Martin and his son waved them through and told them that nothing could be done.

“That one (Cox) pulled a gun on me,” Randall Groves remembered Martin saying to him when he drove up. Hawkins said Martin seemed “irritated” by her presence. “They are dead. Leave the scene,” Ramsey was purportedly told by Martin. Martin’s son allegedly told Thomas Groves that he “could see it on the 4 o’clock news.”

Sizemore earlier demonstrated and explained the mechanics of an AK-47, using the alleged murder weapon as a prop. He also said “bullet impact” had damaged the gun and holster of Cox’s Glock.

Rebrook bristled at that last statement, arguing that Sizemore did not make such notes about the Glock in his initial police report. “It’s a theory,” Rebrook charged. “No, sir, that’s a fact,” Sizemore replied.

“We could stay here until 6 o’clock if you want, but you have no way of knowing if Carl Cox Jr. took that gun out (previously) and cocked it in the presence of Gary Martin. He (Cox) had a round ready to fire,” stated Rebrook, to which Sizemore agreed.

Rebrook said that, in theory, Cox could have fired two shots. His Glock holds nine bullets, and police found seven casings in the magazine. Sizemore replied that he found no spent casings from Cox’s gun at the scene and that the magazine may not have been loaded to capacity.

Annette Ashley, a Fayette County medical examiner, explained the fatal wounds suffered by the three men, while Michelle Cook, a forensic chemist with the State Police crime lab, elaborated on gun residue and her analysis of it.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Bill Scott told of assisting Charlotte Hughes — a friend of his and a mother of one of the victims — in identifying her son’s body. Amy Nibert, a forensic specialist with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, told of how she helped Sizemore in analyzing the crime scene.

Prosecutors planned to call one more witness at 9 a.m. Tuesday before the defense opened its case, although no reports were available at press time. Rebrook said Monday that Martin and his son both intended to take the witness stand. The Fayette County Courthouse was swarming with security personnel Monday due to the high emotions and alleged threats that surround the case.

— E-mail:

mhill@register-herald.com

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