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Prosecutors seeking death penalty in Martin County, Ky. double murder case

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A family argument and alleged love triangle resulted in double murder on Nov. 1, 2013 in Martin County, Ky. Initially, when police were called to the scene, the only available information was that a woman and man had been shot to death at a home in the Rock House Road area of the Tomahawk, Ky. Community. Police quickly learned that the victims were 40-year-old Edgar Hedrick and his wife, 37-year-old April Hedrick. But no one would ever have suspected the alleged murderer, 29-year-old Orie Spence, Jr., who was a close cousin of Edgar Hedrick.

The murders shocked and devastated the close-knit family of Hedrick and Spence. In an interview with WSAZ News, Anthony Spence, the 12-year-old cousin of Edgar and April Hedrick, reported seeing an ambulance at their home on the night of the murders. Anthony stated that he “just thought one of them overdosed or done something bad like hurt [themselves] … [but he] didn’t think killing was in there”.

Family members insist that Edgar Hedrick and Orie Spence, Jr. had always been close, even referring to the two men as best friends. Kalista Spence, a 13-year-old family member, told WSAZ News that “it’s hard to believe that somebody would kill their first or second cousin, and nobody knows why”. Kalista Spence’s father, who is also a cousin of both men, claimed that the family was supposed to have been celebrating Edgar Hedrick’s 40th birthday that weekend and fears that the murders may have involved drugs.

A $2 million bond was set on Nov. 4, 2013 for Orie Spence, Jr., who is being held at the Big Sandy Detention Center. On the date of the arraignment, officials still had not made a public statement regarding motive. However, by Spence’s next court appearance on Nov. 12, 2013, more information would be forthcoming.

As Spence listened to the case against him, detectives and prosecutors revealed that the Hedricks had been murdered in their own home, and that the murder weapon was found on the property of Spence’s parents. In fact, Spence’s own mother disclosed crucial information to 911 dispatchers that ultimately led officials to the weapon, allowing them to charge Spence with the murders.

According to WSAZ News, Detective Chris Phillips of the Ky. State Police testified that “there was a statement made by the mother [of Spence] that April and Edgar Hedrick possibly had hepatitis and had transmitted it to Mr. Spence”. In fact, according to detectives, Spence claimed that he and April Hedrick had a sexual relationship. If the information provided by Spence and his mother is accurate, it would certainly explain how Spence could have contracted hepatitis, and would give a possible motive for the murders. Spence, on the other hand, maintains his innocence.

During the preliminary hearing, Detective Phillips testified that Spence admitted to shooting Edgar Hedrick, but said that it was purely self-defense. In Spence’s version of events, he claimed that it was Edgar who actually shot April, and that April was shot from behind. Spence went on to say that he “then was involved in an altercation with [Edgar], which led to him shooting Edgar in self-defense”, according to Olivia Fecteau of WSAZ News.

Detectives, however, assert that Spence’s claims simply do not add up, and that the evidence in the case tells a very different story. Detective Phillips reported that April Hedrick was eating at the time of the shooting, and was, in fact, shot under her chin, from the front. This information is entirely inconsistent with Spence’s claim that April Hedrick had been shot from behind. Following the preliminary hearing, the presiding judge made the decision to transfer the case to the grand jury.

Prosecutors in the case have recently announced that they will seek the death penalty for Orie Spence, Jr. Spence continues to proclaim his innocence and has entered a plea of not guilty to both murder charges. Based on the publically available evidence, the odds certainly do not appear to be in Mr. Spence’s favor.

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