POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Richard Hurt, 49, of Gallipolis, a man who was sentenced in Ohio’s Gallia Court of Common Pleas in February 2017 to four years in an Ohio facility for the third-degree felony of tampering with evidence and fifth-degree felony of abuse of a a corpse, was sentenced to one to five years in Mason County Circuit Court in West Virginia for concealment of a deceased human body, Tuesday morning.
Hurt’s West Virginia sentence will not begin until all of his Ohio time is served. Circuit Court Judge Lora Dyer ordered the sentence to be consecutive, rather than concurrent. This means his prison sentences will not overlap and will be served separately. At minimum, he must serve one year in a West Virginia state facility before he can be considered for any kind of parole. He could not serve more than five years in prison, however. This was considered the maximum punishment allowed by West Virginia law.
Hurt previously pleaded guilty to the crime, January 21. He also previously admitted to dismembering the body of Gallia resident Jessica Berry in Ohio and then hid her remains at a home outside the city limits of Point Pleasant in summer 2016.
Ronald F. Stein, II, served as the prosecuting attorney and Courtenay Craig served as defense counsel.
Craig argued that Hurt’s sentence should be served concurrently with the Ohio sentence because while he hid the body in one state and dismembered it in another which was technically considered two different crimes, they were both created from the same act and the difference was in crossing jurisdictions.
Making a victim impact statement at the proceeding was Berry’s mother, Tammy Taylor.
“When Richard Hurt’s attorney said it was not a heinous crime, it was a heinous crime,” said Taylor. “…He dismembered my daughter… He chopped off her parts. He chopped off her knees. He chopped her fingers. Then he decapitated her…We couldn’t even give her a proper burial…He took everything from us and doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. Never.”
Taylor said she felt Hurt deserved any sort of punishment he could get and went on to say that the crimes he committed were the kinds of things you heard about on television or in movies and one never expected such things to take place around their family.
“I think from a legal standpoint going back to our case in Ohio, this is probably the worst form of tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse that I’ve seen,” said Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren, who was present in the court room gallery in Mason County, Tuesday. “The fact that we’re getting a consecutive sentence here means that he would serve every day in Ohio before his sentence in West Virginia would start. The perspective of our office is that we’re satisfied with that result although we share the sentiments of the family and Ms. Taylor that this conduct, although he’s received maximum punishments, it does not fit the conduct that he engaged in, dismembering a body, disposing of a body and depriving a family of a proper burial. Those are acts that are so egregious that the maximum sentences don’t seem to satisfy what he’s done.”
Berry’s autopsy report declared the reason of her death to be inconclusive. Statements from Gallia court proceedings indicated that Hurt, Berry and another woman had gone to a residence on White Road in Gallia County on July 18, 2018 to engage in sexual activity. Hurt claimed Berry overdosed on opioids and he had attempted to resuscitate her in a cold bath. Statements made to law enforcement indicated Hurt had told them “I should have taken this girl to the ER.”
At some point, Berry died. Hurt dismembered her with a saw and placed her in trash bags before burying her at a residence on Abby Lane in the Point Pleasant area a few days later. His last sentencing hearing would indicate he said he had been drinking. Berry would eventually be declared as missing before her remains were discovered July 30, 2016. She was reported missing July 24, the same year.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.