...ACCUSED IN 2016 MURDER OF WEST VA. COAL EXECUTIVE
APRIL 17, 2017 - written by WADE QUEEN
The murder trial for a young Lawrence County man accused of murdering a former coal executive in West Virginia will be heading to trial in August, after the outcome Friday, April 14, of his pretrial hearing in Mingo County.
Brandon Lee Fitzpatrick, 19, of Louisa, is accused of murdering Ben Hatfield.
In May 2016, the former vice-president of the Patriot Coal company was visiting Mountain View Memory Gardens Cemetery in the Maher area of Mingo County, West Virginia, tending to his late wife's grave, along with the graves of her parents, as he had always did during the Memorial Day holiday during the previous seven years. That's when police investigators say he was robbed by Fitzpatrick and the second suspect that was with him, Anthony Raheem Arriaga.
Arriaga, 21, of Gibsonburg, Ohio, pleaded guilty last Tuesday, April 11, to first-degree murder and robbery charges. Arriaga showed remorse for Hatfield's death on Tuesday, according to the Mingo County prosecutor's office. Prosecutors have recommended Arriaga's sentence to be life on the murder charge and 40 years on the robbery charge.
Arriaga and Fitzpatrick were indicted by a Mingo County grand jury in January 2017 for first-degree murder, and were also charged with conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. The grand jury had deliberated the case since June 2016.
Brandon Fitzpatrick’s was supposed to have gone on trial this past Monday, April 10, but it was pushed back until sometime in August because another lawyer is joining his defense team.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE HATFIELD MURDER CASE: MINGO COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA SHERIFF SAID MURDER WAS A "RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE"
Mingo County Sheriff James Smith says around 1 p.m. Sunday, May 22, Ben Hatfield was cleaning his wife and in-laws' graves when Anthony Arriaga, 20, of Gibsonburg, Ohio, and Brandon Fitzpatrick, 18, of Louisa, Kentucky pulled up to the cemetery.
Sheriff Smith says the men pulled in to the cemetery with intentions of stealing Hatfield's SUV, so they could get money for it.
Smith says the men did not want to leave any witnesses and that Arriaga walked up behind Hatfield and shot twice at him, hitting him once in the back.
Sheriff Smith says Hatfield ran for cover over the riverbank.
He says Arriaga also went over the riverbank after he panicked, and Fitzpatrick drove off, leaving Arriaga there. Investigators say Fitzpatrick thought Arriaga was going to take Hatfield's keys and follow him. However neither men stole anything from Hatfield or his vehicle.
Smith says Arriaga dropped the gun in the river, and took off his clothes because they were wet from going over the riverbank.
Sheriff Smith says Arriaga went to a home near the cemetery and asked for a ride to Wayne.
When he got to Wayne, Sheriff Smith says Arriaga walked to Ricky Peterson's home. He says Arriaga and Peterson went to junior high together. Fitzpatrick drove to Peterson's home to pick Arriaga up, Sheriff Smith said.
Arriaga was arrested Tuesday May 24, 2016, in Allen County, Ohio after investigators were able to ping his cell phone.
Fitzpatrick was arrested Wednesday, May 25, 2016, in Eslmere, Kentucky on drug charges after a traffic stop.
Ricky Peterson has also been arrested and charged with accessory after the fact.
When Fitzpatrick was arrested, investigators say Arriaga's mother, Angela Marcum, was in the vehicle with him. She is facing drug charges, but was never connected with the murder.