Two convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 2017 fatal beating case
HUNTINGTON — Two men were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter Friday in Cabell County Circuit Court in the 2017 fatal beating of a man along the railroad tracks near the 1st Street underpass in Huntington.
Michael Ray Hughes, 52, and Willie David Layne, 25, were charged with murder in the July 7, 2017, beating death of Ricky Allen Roach.
Following Hughes’ testimony in Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell’s courtroom at the Cabell County Courthouse on Friday, the jury came back with a lesser felony conviction.
“I respect the jury’s decision,” said Cabell County assistant prosecuting attorney Joe Fincham.
Hughes testified Friday that a confrontation started between Layne and Roach while they were all drinking together with Virginia Louise Curry, whom Hughes said was like a daughter to him.
Hughes claimed he never intended to kill Roach, but only wanted to teach him a lesson after he made a derogatory sexual statement about Curry, Layne’s love interest.
Hughes testified that he saw Layne punch Roach, which knocked him to the ground.
On Thursday, Layne told jurors he only pushed Roach, who fell to the ground and passed out from too much alcohol.
Layne had originally told police he “knocked Roach out with one punch,” but said he lied about it to investigators to protect Curry and Hughes.
Hughes testified that he also initially lied to police about what happened.
“I didn’t want to get in trouble,” he said.
Hughes said after the initial altercation between Layne and Roach, he and Curry went back to the spot where Roach was lying on the ground and began kicking him. He also testified that Layne pulled Roach up by his shirt and punched him in the head again, and then he began kicking him in the head and side. He added that Curry also kicked Roach once in the head.
Hughes said after that the trio walked away, but not long after went back again to where Roach was on the ground and began kicking him again.
“We wanted to make sure he got the point,” Hughes said.
Layne testified the day before that Hughes kicked Roach in the head and chest more than 30 times, but Hughes denied that it was that many times.
When asked by his defense attorney Jack Dolance about how many times he kicked Roach, Hughes said it may have been a dozen or so times to the head and side.
“I don’t exactly remember,” Hughes said. “I had been drinking all day and I was drunk and upset. Also, it was two years ago.”
At the request of his attorney, Hughes gave a kicking demonstration before the jury to show how he kicked Roach. He mimicked kicking someone on the ground four to five times repeatedly, and then he did it again.
“We just wanted to give him a butt whooping,” Hughes said. “We wanted to teach him a lesson.”
Layne had testified Thursday that Hughes said he wanted to slice Roach’s neck with a knife. Layne said he got on the ground and placed Roach in a choke hold to prevent Hughes from taking further action.
Layne’s defense attorney, Abraham Saad, said his client was trying to save Roach from Hughes. However, Hughes denied that allegation, saying he had no knife, nor did he even own a knife.
“I don’t remember exactly what I said; I was upset,” Hughes said on the stand. “I say a lot of things when I am mad. I may have said it, but I was not really going to do it. I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. I was mad and drunk.”
Hughes said the morning after the alleged beating he noticed several police officers behind a business near the location where the incident occurred and thought at that time that maybe Roach was hurt worse than he thought.
“Someone said that maybe the pharmacy got robbed,” he said.
Hughes said he didn’t actually know that Roach was dead until a detective told him later that day.
Hughes claimed that he never intended to kill Roach.
“I never meant for Ricky to die,” he said.
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. Police found Roach dead approximately two hours later.
In closing arguments, defense attorneys claimed there was no intent to kill and both defendants were intoxicated and didn’t have the mental capacity to conspire or premeditate the killing of Roach.
Fincham countered by showing graphic photographs of the beaten body of Roach, who had concrete embedded into his head, and the bloody scene where police found Roach dead.
“They were not too drunk to talk about what they were going to do,” Fincham told the jury. “They were not too drunk to walk back and forth to beat a man to death. All of their anger, hatred and malice was poured on to the body of Ricky Roach.”
After all closing arguments, the jury went into deliberations and later returned with a guilty verdict for voluntary manslaughter for Hughes and Layne. The two men face three to 15 years in prison.
Both men remain in custody, and a sentencing hearing was set for April 11.
Curry, 28, pleaded guilty to malicious wounding in October for kicking Roach at least once. She has a sentencing hearing scheduled March 14.
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.