GALLIPOLIS — On Monday afternoon in the Gallia County Court of Common Pleas, a Gallia man pleaded guilty to the third-degree felony crime of tampering with evidence and the fifth-degree felony crime of abuse of a corpse involving the dismemberment of a previously missing Gallia woman.
Richard Hurt, 47, of Gallipolis, is slated to be sentenced Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. According to Gallia Court of Common Pleas Judge Margaret Evans, he could face up to 36 months in prison and a $10,000 fine for the tampering with evidence charge and 12 months and a $2,500 fine for the abuse of a corpse charge in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code. According to court proceedings, Hurt pleaded guilty of his own volition to the two charges he was indicted for with no plea bargain. Gallia County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Holdren requested Hurt be placed under house arrest and monitored through a GPS-tracking ankle bracelet as part of his bond condition. Evans agreed and granted the request.
Holdren represented the state, while Hurt was represented by attorney Ronald Janes, at Monday’s hearing. Hurt pleaded not guilty to both charges at a previous arraignment.
According to court records, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Bureau Criminal Identification and Investigation assisted authorities July 30, 2016 in Mason County, W.Va., with the discovery of a dismembered human body. During the investigation, Hurt reportedly told investigators he and a recently reported missing Gallia County woman, Jessica Berry, 32 at the time (she would have been 33 on Sept. 20, 2016), of Gallipolis, were at a residence on White Road in Gallia County on or about July 19. Berry allegedly overdosed on narcotics at the location.
Hurt also allegedly said he used a saw to dismember Berry’s remains, placed them in trash bags and transported those remains in his vehicle for roughly one and a half days before taking them to Mason County, where he buried the remains on private property.
Hurt reportedly said he disposed of Berry’s clothing and the saw in the trash that was collected by a local garbage service. Court records state Hurt said he knew the items would end up at the local landfill.
The Daily Tribune had previously reported Berry’s disappearance. Records further state Hurt had allegedly provided a false statement to Gallia County deputies in regards to Berry’s initial disappearance.
According to postmortem examination of the body records, the forensic pathologist’s opinion from Montgomery County, states the cause of Berry’s death was undetermined due to the state of how investigators received the remains.
“We’re kind of upset,” said Tammy Taylor, Berry’s mother. “It’s not enough. Not enough for what he did to her … What he’s done to my daughter should be more of a capital punishment than what he’s getting. He admits that he did this to her. It’s like getting away with murder because I don’t think she died from a drug overdose. The autopsies came back undetermined. They can’t say she overdosed.”
“He (Hurt) doesn’t show any emotions,” continued Taylor. “He doesn’t have any remorse for what he did. This is just a slap on the hand. He should get more than just a slap on the hand. I’m never going to see my daughter ever again. She has children who will never see their mother … I don’t think any family should have to go through something this tragic for any reason. I don’t care if they are druggies. They are still somebody’s daughter, sister and aunt. You don’t do that to people. The man is sick … He has torn this family apart.”
In Mason County, W.Va., Hurt still faces a charge of concealment of a deceased human body. Monday afternoon, the office of Mason County Prosecuting Attorney R.F. Stein, Jr. released the following statement about Hurt’s case in West Virginia: “The Mason County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office continues to investigate the facts that form the basis of the criminal charge(s) against Richard Hurt. The gathering of relevant facts for this case stretch across county and state lines and involve multiple law enforcement agencies. The Mason County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is working closely with Jason Holdren, Prosecuting Attorney for Gallia County, Ohio, in order to piece together the entire investigation. Mason County will continue to gather facts in an effort to present this case to an upcoming term of the Mason County Grand Jury for possible indictment. We are aware that, earlier today (Monday), the defendant pled guilty to each and every charge against him in Gallia County, Ohio, and that plea bargaining was not involved in his guilty plea. This Office continues to offer our thoughts to the family of the victim and hopes that the defendant’s guilty plea will help bring them some form of closure.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.