Thursday, April 19, 2012
Student assault under investigation
By SUE WATSON
An 18-year-old H.W. Byers High School student remains in critical, but stable, condition at The Med in Memphis, Tenn., as Marshall County Sheriff Kenny Dickerson tries to piece together evidence from a crime scene at 321 Hurdle Club Road.
The investigation started with a pickup crash and continued at a house fire and at an adjacent lake.
A call to 911 for medical help, at a single vehicle accident at the intersection of Hogan Road and Hurdle Club Road, alerted sheriff’s investigators that a crime may have been committed.
The call came around 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 11. A passerby reported a dark-colored Toyota pickup had struck a tree head-on, the sheriff said. Deputies arrived after fire and medical personnel to learn that the driver had head trauma, cuts and bruises over his body.
“As the individual was removed from the Toyota, medics noticed the victim’s clothing was wet and he had a belt tied around one of his ankles – arousing suspicion,” the sheriff said. “The individual was unconscious and had no identifying information on his person.”
He was airlifted to The Med.
As officers investigated the wreck, they received information of a second call to 911 by a passerby who reported a house fire in progress at 321 Hurdle Club Road. During the investigation at the Toyota, deputies learned the pickup was licensed to the same address, Dickerson said.
Detectives proceeded with the sheriff to the fire and, when they arrived, the structure was fully engulfed. Arson investigators were sent to the scene as firefighters put out the blaze. The sheriff and detectives remained at the scene until late Wednesday night but returned the next day to continue the investigation with the permission of the homeowner and father of the victim, Arthur Larry Carpenter, who was away working at the time of the fire and accident.
Arson investigator Tracy Jeffries retrieved three plastic containers that appeared to have contained gasoline. That, along with additional evidence found near and in a lake behind the home, were sent to the state forensics lab in Batesville for analysis, the sheriff said.
Investigators and the sheriff continued collecting evidence at both scenes, after Dickerson and Maj. Kelly McMillen met with relatives and friends of the victim to try and identify him. Supervisor Eddie Dixon also provided assistance in helping identify the victim, Charles Hardeman, 18, of 321 Hurdle Club Road.
Because medics thought the high school junior had water in his lungs when they tried to provide life support, and because of the suspicious belt wrapped around his leg and presence of mud on his shoes as well as wet clothing, investigators began working to collect evidence from the lake. With the help of Holly Springs Fire Department’s dive team, an underwater investigation was conducted in which a number of articles, one belonging to the victim, were found in about 9 feet of water off the pier.
Those items were also sent in for forensic analysis as well as a blood sample that was collected from the pier. It appeared the victim’s hand had been scratched and his blood was discovered on the pier, the sheriff said.
An item believed to have been taken from the father’s bedroom was retrieved from the lake bottom – the item weighing about 75 pounds and suspected to have been tied to the victim’s ankle with a belt and used as a weight.
Dickerson said the belt buckle was also found attached to the weight, the buckle having been stripped away from the belt after the stitching at the loop on the buckle had apparently given way.
Dickerson believes Hardeman struggled and freed himself from the weight and crawled out of the lake, got in the Toyota and fled, perhaps losing consciousness before the pickup left the road and struck the tree. The accident occurred about a half mile away from the house address.
Investigators are seeking information to help identify suspect(s) in the case and a substantial reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of suspect(s) in the incident. People who believe they have information that may help investigators identify a suspect are asked to call Dickerson at 662-252-1311 or ask to speak with anyone with the investigative team. Callers may remain anonymous and their identities will be kept in strict confidence.
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