published Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Witherow defense questions witness statement

A defense attorney tried to raise doubts Wednesday about eyewitness testimony in a trial over the 2008 slaying of Melissa Hoover.

Malcolm Witherow, 49, is charged with first-degree murder in the 31-year-old woman’s shooting death. His trial started Tuesday in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

Witherow’s attorney, Justin Woodward, reviewed a videotaped interview conducted with witness Tyler Baker in the slaying.

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Ashburn, who interviewed Baker, was on the stand answering Woodward’s questions as the video played in court.

Baker’s statement hours after the shooting differed slightly from his recounting of events when he was on the witness stand Tuesday.

Ashburn asked Baker whether Witherow held a grudge against Hoover over her work with police in 2005 that resulted in drug charges against Witherow.

“He’s always, ‘I’m gonna kill (Hoover),’” Baker said. “He’s been saying that for like a week and a half.”

He also said that Witherow was quiet when sober and only talked about Hoover when drunk.

Baker testified Tuesday that Witherow had threatened revenge on Hoover for months, but he did not recall that Witherow only spoke angrily about Hoover when drunk.

Connie Harrold, 50, testified Tuesday that Witherow told her in the weeks leading up to the shooting that he would retaliate against Hoover, but he promised not to do it at Harrold’s house.

But on Oct. 10, 2008, Harrold, Hoover and Witherow were together in Harrold’s home at 7709 Short Tail Springs Road. It started to rain, Harrold testified, and she told Hoover she should roll up her car windows.

Hoover went outside and Witherow followed moments afterward.

Harrold said she heard what sounded like four gunshots. She went outside and saw Witherow get in his car and drive off.

She said she saw Hoover lying in the street, covered in blood, but she never saw a gun.

Baker was showering and testified that he came outside when he heard Harrold screaming.

The trial resumes this morning in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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