Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fayetteville, West Virginia

From the Charleston Gazette of April 18, 2006
Funeral director innocent in son-in-law's shooting

A Fayette County funeral home director was found not guilty Monday of murdering his son-in-law.

Larry Hess, who managed Dodd-Payne-Hess Funeral Home, never denied shooting Jerry T. Chesterfield. He fired five bullets from his Glock semi-automatic, and four of those struck Chesterfield.

But Hess testified Monday that he shot his son-in-law in self-defense. “I always kept the shell in the chamber,” he said.

He said he had to keep firing because Chesterfield kept coming at him. But two nationally recognized blood spatter experts said Chesterfield’s severe wounds would have put him on the floor quickly.

Throughout the trial, Hess’ younger daughter and several witnesses testified about domestic abuse in the Chesterfield marriage. In his testimony, Hess never wavered that he knew nothing about any problems in the marriage.

Hess came home after Easter weekend last year to find a lamp and a window broken in the funeral home he managed. He said he accepted his daughter’s story that her husband and a friend were drinking, and she got between them, giving her a black eye.

On the day Chesterfield was shot, April 28 of last year, he came to the garage at the funeral home. Hess said Chesterfield was gathering some items in the garage that he owned.

Just before Chesterfield pulled a knife, Hess said, he was holding a pair of his rubber hunting boots in his right hand. Hess said he could not remember how Chesterfield came to drop the boots and take up the knife.

“I thought he was going to kill me,” Hess testified when he saw the knife.


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