AP NEWS

Woman takes stand in beating death trial

February 28, 2019
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Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Willie David Layne attends trial Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, at the Cabell County Courthouse in Huntington. Layne and Michael Ray Hughes are charged with murder in the July 7, 2017, beating death of Ricky Allen Roach.

HUNTINGTON - A woman who previously pleaded guilty to malicious wounding took the stand Wednesday in a trial for two men accused of fatally beating a man in 2017.

Michael Ray Hughes, 52, and Willie David Layne, 25, are charged with murder in the July 7, 2017, beating death of Ricky Allen Roach. Police believe a confrontation started between Layne and Roach after Roach allegedly made a derogatory sexual statement about Virginia Louise Curry while the three were drinking.

Curry, 28, pleaded guilty to malicious wounding in October for kicking Roach at least once. She has a sentencing hearing scheduled March 14.

Curry took the stand Wednesday, testifying that Hughes and Layne demanded Roach leave as they all drank beer together along the railroad tracks near the 1st Street underpass. When Roach refused, Layne grabbed him and made him stand up from crates they had been sitting on. She testified Layne then chased Roach behind a nearby business off 7th Avenue.

“Will (Layne) comes back and said he knocked him out with one hit and was laughing about it,” Curry said. “Mike (Hughes) said he wanted a piece of him, too.”

Curry told the jury the two men went over to Roach, kicking him in the head and ribs, in different configurations at least three times that evening as he lay unconscious.

When the men told Curry about the derogatory sexual statement, she became angry, went over and kicked him in the head, too, she said. Curry demonstrated her kicking motion for jurors, saying she kicked Roach in the middle of his forehead.

At one point, Curry said Layne placed Roach into a choke-hold position, getting blood on his pants, bare chest and arms. Layne used his shirt to wipe off the blood and changed from jeans to shorts, discarding the clothing items in a garbage can at a nearby grocery store, she said.

Curry said she returned to check on Roach afterward, and he was still conscious and was snoring. She bent down and checked on his breathing, using a lighter to see.

A passer-by found Roach lying unconscious at about 3 a.m. July 7, 2017, behind a business near the 1st Street underpass and the railroad tracks. The passer-by then notified Huntington Police Officer Jordan McClellan, who was inside Kroger arresting an alleged shoplifter. McClellan testified Tuesday he returned two hours later to find Roach dead with a moderate amount of blood on him.

Defense attorney Kerry Nessel, who represents Hughes, questioned Curry about whether her kick was fatal.

“I don’t believe one kick in the beginning of a fight would kill someone, as much as they did after that,” she said.

She testified Hughes kicked Roach at least 30 times during the night. Layne kicked him at least six to eight times, she said.

Defense attorney Abraham Saad, who represents Layne, questioned Curry about previous statements she made to detectives in which she did not recall seeing Layne place Roach in a choke hold.

Curry said she could not recall at the time and her memory had been made fuzzy by the amount of alcohol she had consumed that day.

Saad previously told jurors evidence shows Layne should be guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not first-degree murder. Attorney Jack Dolance, who also represents Hughes, previously said evidence would show Hughes did not want to kill Roach and instead wanted to “whip” him for his alleged derogatory statement to Curry.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, in Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell’s courtroom at the Cabell County Courthouse.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.