GALLIPOLIS — Charges were filed Thursday in Gallipolis Municipal Court against a Gallia man connected to an investigation involving the discovery last weekend of human remains in West Virginia.
According to Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins, Richard Hurt, 47, of Gallipolis, is charged with tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony charge, and abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony charge. In West Virginia, Hurt faces a charge of concealment of a deceased human body.
According to the complaint, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Bureau Criminal Identification and Investigation assisted authorities in Mason County, W.Va., with the discovery of a dismembered human body on July 30. During the investigation, Hurt reportedly told investigators he and a recently reported missing Gallia County woman, Jessica Berry, 32, 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. The complaints state Hurt said he knew the items would end up at the local landfill.
The Daily Tribune reported Berry’s disappearance last week. Complaints further state Hurt had supposedly provided a false statement to Gallia County deputies in regards to Berry’s initial disappearance.
A preliminary hearing is set in Mason County Magistrate Court in West Virginia for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 8. A hearing has yet to be determined in Ohio court proceedings.
Law enforcement has yet to confirm whether the remains discovered in West Virginia truly belong to Berry. According to Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning, a report dated July 24 indicated Berry’s family had not seen her for days and were growing concerned. Deputies spoke with the woman’s mother, Tammy Taylor, who stated her daughter had entered a red or maroon car with some friends at approximately 7:30 p.m. July 18.
West Virginia State Police are taking the lead in the investigation so far with the discovery of the human remains. WVSP Crime Lab experts, Ohio BCI, Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and the Mason County Sheriff’s Department are still investigating.
“The Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office has filed charges on Richard Hurt for abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence, based on the evidence presented to this office at the present time,” Adkins said. “We are awaiting additional crime scene and scientific evidence to determine if further criminal charges are warranted.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.