Murder charge amended to reckless homicide

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Lawyer claims race for Owen County sheriff may have had role in investigation

By Molly Haines

A Franklin County jury has found Joshua Hammond not guilty of murder in connection with the death of Charles Monroe.
During the first day of the Joshua Hammond murder trial, the defense attorney alleged that a former Franklin County sheriff’s detective tainted the investigation.
The Franklin County jury convicted Hammond on charges of first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and tampering with physical evidence but the murder charge was amended to reckless homicide.
According to the State-Journal, defense attorney Guthrie True, downplayed Hammond’s involvement in the May 2012 murder of 30-year-old Charles Monroe of Frankfort.
Hammond, 33, the son of Owen County Sheriff Zemer Hammond, is facing charges of murder, robbery, assault and tampering with physical evidence after Monroe’s body was found dumped on the side of an Interstate 64 ramp in Frankfort.
True called into question several parts of the investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, including parts conducted by narcotics detective Matt Brown.
True said witnesses would testify that Brown was very vocal in his plans to oppose Zemer Hammond in the 2014 election, the newspaper reported.
Brown is facing federal charges for allegations that he stole more than $26,000 in cash and goods during his time at the sheriff’s office.
According to the newspaper, True said because Brown planned to oppose Zemer Hammond in the election, he had a clear motive to focus on Joshua Hammond and distort the evidence.
Brown allegedly interviewed two main witnesses for the prosecution. True said jurors would listen to tapes of those interviews, the newspaper reported.
“In both of those interviews . . . the witnesses will give detective Brown these statements and then the recording is shut off,” True said.
True said the recording would then resume, and Brown would say there was additional information that needed to go on the record.
“. . . then all of a sudden everything that comes after that is focused on Josh.”
According to the newspaper, a motion was made by Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland to restrict True from mentioning Brown during the trial, calling the evidence involving his campaign plans hearsay.
Judge Phillip Shepherd overruled the motion.
Joshua Hammond’s co-defendants David Bruce II and James Simons, both testified against Joshua Hammond as part of the trial last week.
Simons detailed to the jurors how he, Joshua Hammond and Bruce allegedly lured 30-year-old Monroe into Joshua Hammond’s truck, then viciously beat him before they dumped him on the side of an on-ramp from 127 South to I-64 in Frankfort, the newspaper reported.
According to Bruce’s testimony, he and Simons leaned down in the back of Joshua Hammond’s truck and covered themselves with floor mats when Hammond came from the apartment with Monroe. Bruce said they remained hidden throughout the group’s trip to Walmart and did not reveal themselves until the attack began, the newspaper reported.
Bruce claimed he tried to break up the fight when Joshua Hammond allegedly stopped on the interstate ramp and started beating Monroe with a police baton, while Simons held him in a chokehold.
“Josh was the one who killed the boy,” Bruce said. “Beat him to death.”
According to the newspaper, during Simons’ testimony he admitted that he held Monroe by the neck, but said Bruce also put him in a chokehold -- and said it was Bruce who ultimately killed him.
True confronted Bruce with the accusation, but Bruce said it was a lie.
Bruce is serving 20 years after pleading guilty to criminal facilitation to murder, second-degree robbery, second-degree assault and tampering with physical evidence.
Simons pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and tampering with physical evidence.
According to the newspaper, both Simons and Bruce told the same account of Hammond continuously beating Monroe with a police baton, then eventually exiting the truck, pulling Monroe’s feet down and out the passenger door, stripping him and robbing him of his money and pills.
“Josh (Hammond) never asked nothing about him being alright,” Bruce said. “He could have cared less.”
According to the newspaper, it was unclear Thursday when prosecution arguments were expected to end, if any defense witnesses would be called to testify.