WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (AP) — A second man has been convicted of murder in the shooting of a coal executive in West Virginia last year.
The Williamson Daily News reports that 20-year-old Brandon Lee Fitzpatrick, of Louisa, Kentucky, pleaded guilty Thursday in the killing of Bennett K. Hatfield.
Fitzpatrick admitted he was with 22-year-old Anthony Raheem Arriaga, of Delphos, Ohio, when Arriaga killed Hatfield in a scheme to steal his GMC Yukon Denali and sell its parts. Arriaga was convicted in October of murder, robbery and conspiracy. His sentencing is scheduled Tuesday.
Hatfield, 59, was shot while visiting his wife's gravesite in May, a year after he resigned as CEO and president of Patriot Coal, which filed for bankruptcy citing low coal prices and falling demand. At the time he was operating his own mining consulting business, Coal Strategies LLC.
The jury convicted Fitzpatrick of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit robbery. He was acquitted of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree robbery. Defense attorney Susan Van Zant pressed for a mistrial, questioning how Fitzpatrick could be found guilty of murder, but not the underlying conspiracy that led to it.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors researched case law and worked out a deal: In exchange for his plea to felony murder, prosecutors would recommend the possibility of parole.
Mingo County Prosecutor Duke Jewell said he agreed, with the consent of Hatfield's family, provided Fitzpatrick admit what happened.
Answering questions from Judge Miki Thompson, Fitzpatrick said he was with Arriaga and knew he had a gun when they pulled behind Hatfield's SUV at the cemetery and Arriaga shot Hatfield in the back.
Information from: Williamson Daily News, http://www.williamsondailynews.com/