JEFFERSON-Two controversial murder cases could demand the services of a jury during the March 27 session of Ashe County Superior Court.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated trial in recent memory centers on a former Ashe County Sheriff’s deputy charged with the 2015 murder of Dallas Shatley.
Joshua ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins was charged with second degree murder for shooting Shatley.
Shately was shot by Ashe County Sheriff’s deputies on July 8, 2015, after he allegedly confronted the officers who were responding to a disturbance. The incident was reported around 10 p..m in Crumpler on Shatley Road, just off of Highway 16. According to previous statements by former Ashe Sheriff James Williams, a deputy was dragged by a vehicle driven by Shatley and shots were fired.
A postmortem toxicologic analysis of Shatley detected elevated levels of ethanol – 160 mg/dl – in tissue taken from Shatley’s eye. Ethanol is the active agent in beer, wine, vodka, whiskey, rum and other liquors. Ethanol is the single most important substance of abuse in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A pre-trial life sentence
In an unrelated case, Fred Alvious Church, 79, will once again appear in court for a murder charge that dates back 12 years prior. Since his arrest, Church has remained in custody at the Ashe County Jail, earning him the dubious honor of being the facility’s longest serving inmate.
Church was charged with murdering his wife in February 2004 in West Jefferson. Former Sheriff James Williams, who wasn’t in office at the time of the homicide, doesn’t remember the specifics of his case, but an unpublished opinion by the N.C. Court of Appeals sheds more light on the circumstances surrounding the murder.
During a March 2010 hearing, Church’s on, Jimmy, testified that his father had called him on Feb. 7, 2004 and said “something bad” had happened and that he was planning to shoot himself.
Jimmy went to his parents’ home and found his father with a gun in his pocket. Church told his son that his wife was “back there” in the hallway and referred to the shooting. When authorities arrived, they found the body of Church’s wife at the end of the hallway, according to the N.C. Court of Appeals.
Church was soon thereafter charged with murder, but that is about as far as the state got with its case.
“When he was charged with murder, he was sent for mental evaluations and ruled incompetent to stand trial,” said Williams in an earlier interview. “You can’t turn him loose because he’s charged with murder, but you can’t try him either. He’s basically pulling a life sentence pre-trial. He will probably die in jail.”
Since his arrest, Church has been shuffled back and forth between various mental health institutions and the county jail. His name continues to reappear on the local court docket, but the outcome remains the same and Church is routinely returned to his nearby cell.
Various appeals concerning his involuntary commitment have been heard, but the district attorney’s office has not made much headway in resolving the case.
Authorities estimate that Church has cost the county an excess of $20,000 in medical bills alone include implanting a pacemaker in Church’s chest on the taxpayers’ dime.
Reach Jesse Campbell at (336) 846-7164.