GALLIPOLIS — The jury returned with guilty verdicts in the case against Bruce A. Hively on Thursday afternoon in the Common Pleas Court of Gallia County.
After deliberating for approximately three and a half hours on the fourth day of trial Thursday, a jury returned at approximately 4:40 p.m. to deliver a guilty verdict to aggravated murder with a gun specification and a guilty verdict to tampering with evidence for the shooting death of Charles T. Addis, 18, earlier this year. Hively, 56, was found not guilty of murder, a charge also outlined on the defendant’s indictment. According to Ohio law, the defendant could not be found guilty of both the murder and aggravated murder charges, only one or the other.
The four-day trial began on Monday in the common pleas court, and, over the course of the trial, the jury heard testimony in regard to the shooting that occurred on April 4, 2013, at the intersection of Hannan Trace Road and Elliott Road near Dickey Chapel Church.
According to testimony, on the evening on April 4, 2013, Hively, who was traveling on Elliott Road to the intersection of Hannan Trace Road, passed the victim, Charles Addis, his brother, Aaron Addis and Anthony “Kyle” Knepper who were all gathered at the Dickey Chapel Church parking lot.
After traveling to the stop sign and then turning around, Hively parked his vehicle on the left side of the roadway where an argument ensued between himself, Knepper and Charles Addis — an argument that lead to Hively shooting and killing Charles Addis.
Hively, who is the holder of a concealed-carry permit, reportedly discharged his gun four consecutive times, shooting and killing the victim, while Knepper and Aaron Addis, who had been seated in his vehicle in the church parking lot, ran from the scene and took cover in the nearby cemetery.
Authorities later arrived, and Hively was taken into custody, while Charles Addis — who had a total of four bullet wounds, including two to the chest — was pronounced dead at the scene. Hively has remained incarcerated in the Gallia County Jail since his arrest on the night of the incident under a $750,000, 10 percent bond.
During closing arguments Thursday morning, Gallia County Assistant Prosecutor Eric Mulford summarized the State of Ohio’s evidence as presented at trial, including the cell phone video taken by Knepper of the unfolding events on the evening of April 4, as well as four spent shell casings that were located outside the defendant’s vehicle. In his closing statement, Mulford also pointed to the fact that Hively did not just shoot the victim one time, but fired four shots, two of which were fired upon the victim after he fell to the ground.
“So, at the time that Charlie is on the ground, helpless, lying flat on his back and probably within seconds of death — because the coroners testified to you that death would have occurred anywhere from 15 to 20 seconds to one minute, after the injury was sustained — this defendant shoots him two more times,” Mulford stated.
The assistant prosecutor also discussed the defense’s theory that just prior to the shooting, the defendant was pushed back inside his car and then kicked by the victim in this case. According to the state, this was an impossibility due to the cell phone video evidence, wherein the jury can observe that in the seconds prior to the first two gunshots, Hively is standing upright beside his open car door and Charles Addis is to his immediate left. Mulford explained that, from the time the camera pans away from the the defendant and victim, there is a two-second interval before the firing of the first shot and a five-second interval before the camera pans back to capture the defendant standing upright with his gun pointed at the body of Charles Addis.
Mulford told the jury that it would be impossible for Hively to have been assaulted just prior to the shooting based upon this video evidence.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that is impossible. The state submits to you, that is impossible,” Mulford stated. “How do we know that’s impossible? We don’t just have to take the defendant’s word for it, and we don’t just have to consider that cell phone video. How do we know it’s impossible? There are four spent shell casings. Zero — zero of four — are inside the defendant’s car.”
Mulford also discussed the defendant’s claim of self defense in this case and what, by statute, the defense must outline to prove self defense through the consideration of three factors, including the proof that the defendant was not at fault in creating the situation at hand and that his only means of escape in this situation would be through the level of force that was used.
“As a matter of law, he can’t satisfy any of them if you consider those factors,” Mulford told the jury.
Mulford also reiterated his fellow assistant prosecutor Britt Wiseman’s words in his opening statement on Monday wherein Wiseman stated that this case is a case based solely upon choices — the choices the defendant made that evening, including his choice to confront the boys, engage in an argument, shoot Charles Addis and then plant his own knife beneath the body of the deceased prior to the arrival of law enforcement.
“It was the defendant’s choice after that to engage in dishonest conduct by tampering with evidence. It was the defendant’s choice, after he did that, to lie. It was the defendant’s choice, after he did that, to plant that knife under Charlie’s dead body, at that point, and it was the defendant’s choice to lie again when BCI talked to him,” Mulford said. “It was the defendant’s choice and it will be the defendant’s choice to claim self defense now, rather than being held accountable for his actions. As Mr. Wiseman told you in his opening, the state asks that you hold this defendant accountable for his actions and we ask you to hold this defendant accountable for his choices.
“At the end of the day, ladies and gentlemen, this entire incident was avoidable. This entire incident was the result of the defendant’s choices. The defendant’s choices on April 4, 2013, were not just bad choices, those choices were criminal under the laws of the State of Ohio,” he said.
During the defense’s closing arguments, attorney for the defendant Charles Knight, argued that the jury needed to put themselves in the mind of Hively that evening prior to considering the argument of self defense.
“It’s important that when we are discussing what was the situation that gave rise to the shooting, that we talk about who really caused a confrontation there this day and, yes, it does go to the issue of self defense,” Knight told the jury.
“The confrontation started when Knepper and Charlie Addis decided to walk across that parking lot, get in a verbal argument, and that’s about as nice as I can put it,” he said. “When you decide whether or not there is self defense in this case, you have to place yourself in the position of Bruce Hively. Not some cop, not some guy who talks to you later, what did Bruce Hively believe was going to happen?”
Knight also discussed that the defendant, during the entire incident, remained near his car that was parked next to an embankment and the church parking lot on Elliott Road, while Knepper and the victim approached Hively’s vehicle.
“At no time did Bruce Hively approach these boys. At no time did he approach Knepper. At no time did he approach Charles Addis. At no time did he approach Aaron Addis,” Knight said. “He didn’t cause this confrontation.”
The defense also discussed Hively’s record and reputation, while pointing to the statements the defendant made to investigators concerning his ongoing “problems” he had with the Addis family and Knepper.
“He has never been arrested for anything, he’s never been in trouble. He, mostly, took care of the neighborhood, took care of his own property and was very concerned with what happened out in his neighborhood,” Knight said. “Up until a few months before this incident, he lived half a mile from the parking lot where this all started. He had numerous problems with theft and he had his suspicious — you heard his statements — his suspicions were that it was the Addises, and he had problems with Knepper. He even told them, ‘look, I’ve had this stuff stolen. People have told me that you’re the one who did it. I want you to stay away from me, stay away from my wife, stay away from my property, just stay away from me.’ He just wanted to be left alone.”
Knight further asked the jury to consider Hively’s state of mind that evening before reaching a verdict in this case.
“He came down by that parking lot and he knew these men had seen him and he knew if they knew he was leaving, what was going to happen — they were going to go back over to his place like he thought they always did. This was the state of mind Bruce Hively was in when he drove by that church,” Knight stated. “It’s your obligation to decide what is in the mind of Bruce Hively. Did he have an honest belief that he was in danger?”
During the state’s chance for a final rebuttal, Mulford, among his arguments, left the jury with one final thought.
“None of the arguments presented by the defendant, constitutes a license to kill anyone,” Mulford told the jury.
Following the return of the guilty verdicts on Thursday afternoon, Gallia County Assistant Prosecutors Eric Mulford and Britt Wiseman, who handled the prosecution in this case, issued a joint statement in regard to the guilty verdict.
“We are very pleased with the verdict. We are thankful to deliver this verdict for Charlie’s family, and we hope that this will provide them with some closure,” the statement said. “We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and BCI.”
Hively will be sentenced at a later date yet to be determined by the common pleas court. He will remain in custody of the Gallia County Sheriff until sentencing.