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John Patrick McCreary

Diane Manning has brought to our attention another case of a young man who has been convicted of murder, based solely on interpretation of a 911 call which is very hard to understand. This John Patrick McCreary case shows relentless prosecution on the part of the state. A family is divided. Emotions are high. Sometimes those close to the scene cannot see the truth as clearly as those who are at a greater distance. The case of Leon Walchuk is an similar example close to home.

Certainly the reports below do not provide much beyond hysteria for the evidence which has convicted McCreary.

Murderer of couple given life sentence:
Defendant's family seeks exoneration; victim's mom

John Patrick McCreary

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - In an emotional hearing charged with family tension, John Patrick McCreary was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without the chance for parole for 25 years for the murders of his cousin and her boyfriend.

In issuing the sentence, Jefferson Circuit Judge Steve Mershon rejected claims from McCreary's family that a 911 emergency call recording exonerates him.

The hearing included accusations from the defense of bias by the judge and prosecutor, and complaints from the victims' families about media coverage and the claims by McCreary's supporters concerning the 911 recording.

It also included an announcement that prosecutors are investigating whether the recording McCreary's mother played at the trial was tampered with; and a request by the mother of one victim for McCreary to talk about the night he killed her son.

In his only statement, McCreary said to Mershon: "I maintain my innocence, and this case of injustice is only temporary. Thank you."

A jury convicted McCreary in December of the murders of Jessica Hawkins, 24, and Joel Blevins, 29, at their southwestern Jefferson County home in 2000.

During the trial, the prosecution alluded to a possible robbery motive.

Blevins' mother, JoAnn Thompson Blevins, stood behind McCreary yesterday and asked him to face her as she spoke, but McCreary, of Bedford, would not turn around.

"I'm really hurt that you don't have the backbone to turn around and face me and look me straight in the eye," she said. She then said McCreary had turned on his own cousin, noting that both victims had helped McCreary in the past.

"Just tell me, please, tell me why you did this to my son," she said.

She said she could have been at her son's house that night; she thought about taking leftover spaghetti to Hawkins and Blevins but didn't.

"Patrick, if I had been there, would you have shot me too?" Blevins asked.

She also disputed assertions by McCreary's supporters that Hawkins identifies Travis Thompson, JoAnn Thompson Blevins' nephew, on the 911 recording as the shooter.

"It's nothing but lies," she said.

She also recalled an earlier hearing where a defense attorney presented letters from supporters that McCreary had received since being arrested. "I can send you some cards and pictures," Blevins said. "I can send you some pictures of Jessica and Joel."

During the trial, a 911 operator said she heard a dying Hawkins identify McCreary as the shooter by name and by saying "my cousin." Two other women also said they had phone conversations with the dying woman in which she identified the shooter as McCreary.

But McCreary's family maintains that when the 911 recording is played at a slower speed, Hawkins actually names a cousin of Blevins. The recording was made from the court system's video-recording from McCreary's first trial, which ended in a hung jury. Copies of the 911 audio recording were played during both trials.

McCreary's family has mounted a campaign to overturn his conviction. The campaign has included petitions, letters, booklets, pamphlets, buttons, T-shirts, a town meeting in Bedford, a booth at a Louisville flea market and a rally last week outside the Jefferson County Judicial Center.

During yesterday's hearing, prosecutor Brian Butler said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Allan Cobb compared the version of the 911 recording played to jurors during the second trial by McCreary's mother, Diana Slay, to the others introduced.

Butler said Cobb believes the recording was altered and that if an expert concurs, the plan is "to convene a grand jury regarding tampering with evidence."

Slay later said that she didn't alter the recording except to slow it down.

"If I'm guilty of trying to help my son, then so be it," she said.

Although Mershon said it isn't his call, he implored prosecutors not to pursue a charge regarding the recording.

"I think there's enough pain and hurt and anger on both sides of this family," he said, adding, "I question whether, even if it was altered, it's worth dragging anybody back through that."

In his second trial last year, a jury found McCreary, 28, guilty of shooting Hawkins and Blevins at their Scenic Trail home on March 22, 2000.

McCreary's first trial ended in March 2002 with a jury split 8-4 in favor of a conviction, according to lawyers involved in the case then.

In both trials prosecutors relied on a 911 recording where a dying Hawkins said she was shot by "my cousin." Prosecutors contended that she also said, "Pat" or "Patrick," but defense attorneys disputed that.

The jury in the second trial could have recommended the death penalty but recommended life without possibility of parole for 25 years. Mershon could have imposed a lesser sentence but could not impose a stiffer sentence.

In issuing the sentence, Mershon said he rarely deviates from the jury's recommendation and saw no reason to with McCreary.

Afterward, Jeanette McCreary said the campaign to overturn her brother's conviction will continue.

"One day, someone will be able to help us," she said.

Patrick McCreary's attorneys asked for publicly funded lawyers to be appointed for his appeals.

Mershon denied motions by the attorneys for an acquittal and for a new trial on several grounds, including the 911 recording and alleged bias by the judge and Butler.

Defense attorney Ken McCardwell said during the sentencing that Mershon had rushed the defense during its case and that Butler disclosed in an interview that McCreary had failed a polygraph. Mershon said from the bench that he believed he was fair throughout the trial.

Butler said Mershon was well within his duty to keep a trial moving when he ordered a defense attorney to move on in questioning after the same question had been asked of a witness several times.

The results of the polygraph, which were not mentioned at trial, are in the court's file, Butler said. He mentioned the polygraph in an interview last week after McCreary's supporters' held a rally outside the courthouse.


Man gets life term in couple's deaths

John Patrick McCreary, who was convicted of murdering his cousin and her boyfriend, was sentenced today to life in prison without parole for 25 years.

During the sentencing Jefferson Circuit Judge Steve Mershon rejected claims from McCreary's family that a 911 emergency call recording exonerates him.

The emotional sentencing hearing included accusations from the defense of bias by the judge and prosecutor; complaints from the victims' families about media coverage and the claims by McCreary's supporters concerning the 911 recording; an announcement that prosecutors are investigating whether the recording McCreary's mother played at the second trial was tampered with; and a request by the mother of one victim for McCreary to talk about the night he killed her son.

In his only statement, McCreary said to Mershon: "Yes, your honor. I maintain my innocence, and this case of injustice is only temporary. Thank you."

A jury convicted McCreary in December of the murders of Jessica Hawkins, 24, and Joel Blevins, 29, at their southwestern Jefferson County home in 2000.

Blevins' mother, JoAnn Thompson Blevins, stood behind McCreary today and asked him to face her as she spoke. McCreary did not turn around. A tearful Blevins then said McCreary had turned on his own cousin, noting that both victims had helped McCreary in the past.

"Just tell me, please, tell me why you did this to my son," she said.

She also disputed assertions by McCreary's supporters that Hawkins identifies Travis Thompson, JoAnn Thompson Blevins' nephew, on the 911 recording as the shooter.

"It's nothing but lies," she said.

During the trial, a 911 operator said she heard a dying Hawkins identify McCreary as the shooter by name and by saying "my cousin." Two other women also said they had phone conversations with the dying woman where she identified the shooter as McCreary.

But McCreary's family maintains that, when the 911 recording is played at a slower speed, Hawkins actually names a cousin of Blevins. The recording was made from the court system's video-recording from McCreary's first trial, which ended in a hung jury. Copies of the 911 audio recording were played during both trials.

McCreary's family has mounted a campaign to overturn his conviction. The campaign has included petitions, letters, booklets, pamphlets, buttons, T-shirts, a town meeting in Bedford, KY, a booth at a Louisville flea market and a rally last week outside the Jefferson County Judicial Center.

During today's hearing, prosecutor Brian Butler said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Allan Cobb compared the version of the 911 recording played to jurors during the second trial by McCreary's mother, Diana Slay, to the others introduced.

Butler said Cobb believes the recording was altered and that if an expert concurs, the plan is "to convene a grand jury regarding tampering with evidence."

Slay shook her head as Butler said that, and later said that she didn't alter the recording except to slow it down.

"If I'm guilty of trying to help my son, then so be it," she said.


Jurors deadlock in double murder case

At least two jurors with concerns about "reasonable doubt" led to a hung jury in a double murder trial yesterday, said attorneys who talked with some jurors afterward.

Lawyers for both sides said the jury was split 8-4 for conviction in the case of John Patrick McCreary, 28, of Bedford, KY. He faced two charges of murder in Jefferson Circuit Court in the March 2001 shooting deaths of his cousin, Jessica Hawkins, and her boyfriend, Joel Blevins.

If convicted, the jury could have recommended the death penalty.

McCreary is scheduled to appear before Judge Steve Mershon on Monday for a new trial date to be set.

Whether prosecutors seek the death penalty again will be a decision for Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel, but Brian Butler, one of the assistant commonwealth's attorneys assigned to the case, said he does not expect that to change.

Prosecutors contended that McCreary shot Hawkins, 24, and Blevins, 28, at their home on Scenic Trail in southwestern Jefferson County.

In a tape-recorded call that the wounded Hawkins made to 911 Hawkins said her "cousin" shot her.

Prosecutors contended that she also said "Pat" did it, but a beep made the second syllable of the name inaudible. Defense attorneys disputed that Hawkins actually named the assailant, saying that the sound prosecutors claimed was "Pat" could have been anything.

The jurors deliberated part of Thursday and yesterday before the judge dismissed them. The outcome left all sides in the case facing another trial that has divided a family.

"The 911 call says it all," said Honey Thompson, a cousin of Blevins. "Jessica named who killed them and the jury chose to ignore that."

Jeanette McCreary, the defendant's older sister, said the outcome "gives me hope. It's definitely better than a guilty plea."

"It's torn the family apart," Jeanette McCreary said.

"I didn't want that," said Jesse Hawkins, Jessica's father, referring to the divisions in the family. "I'm very displeased with the court system," he said. "Jessica told the whole world who shot her."

Prosecutors Butler and Jan Brightwell said jurors may have been concerned by the absence of blood on McCreary and his clothing. During the trial, prosecutors said the shooter may have been far enough away that blood wouldn't have spattered on him.

Defense attorney Ted Walton predicted a retrial will bring an acquittal.

Defense attorneys argued that no witnesses placed McCreary in Jefferson County. Friends testified McCreary was with them at the time of the shooting. But initially, McCreary told police he was with different friends, who denied McCreary was with them.


Double-murder case still before jury

After nearly 10 hours of deliberation yesterday, jurors in a double-murder trial told the judge last night that they couldn't reach a verdict.

"What that means is we all need a good night's sleep," Jefferson Circuit Judge Steve Mershon told the jurors before sequestering them in a hotel overnight.

The jurors, who began deliberating shortly before noon, will continue today to try to decide whether to convict a Bedford, KY, man who is accused of driving to his cousin's home in southwestern Jefferson County and killing her and her boyfriend.

John Patrick McCreary, 28, could face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors alleged that McCreary shot his cousin, Jessica Hawkins, and her boyfriend, Joel Blevins, at their home on Scenic Trail about 6 p.m. on March 22, 2001.

Emotions ran high last night as families of the victims and the defendant waited for the jury's decision. Before jurors emerged to announce they could not reach a verdict, Mershon told the court that deputies had heard people making threats toward each other.

"I know that you can hold your emotions in check," he warned the families.

In a 911 call played several times during the trial, Hawkins told an operator that her "cousin" shot her. Prosecutors said she specifically said "Pat" did it, but a beep made the second syllable of the name inaudible.

Defense attorneys disputed that Hawkins actually named the assailant.

That sound "could be a groan, could be anything," defense attorney Cynthia Crick said during closing statements.

Both victims were shot multiple times. Blevins, 28, was wounded in the head and the left arm and suffered a bullet abrasion on the left side of his abdomen, according to a medical examiner's report. Hawkins, 24, was shot six times, according to a medical examiner's report.

In other calls, Hawkins told a relative and a friend immediately after the shooting that McCreary had shot her, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said McCreary had lied to police when he told them he had been at the home of friends at the time of the shooting. Those friends denied that McCreary was there.

During the trial, other friends testified that McCreary was with them at the time of the shooting. Prosecutors contended that the second pair of friends, who never spoke to police before the trial, lied after McCreary's initial alibi failed.

Defense attorneys argued that no witnesses placed McCreary in Jefferson County on the day of the shooting.

And physical evidence at the scene exonerated McCreary, Crick said, referring to a bloody footprint that wasn't his. She also cited a bite mark on Blevins' face that a defense expert said probably didn't match McCreary's teeth.

"They have no case," she said of the prosecution.

Brian Butler, an assistant commonwealth's attorney, said the footprint belonged to police. There was so much blood around the home -- Hawkins had walked around after being shot -- that it was difficult to avoid, he said.

McCreary killed Blevins, and "once he killed Joel, he couldn't leave a witness," so he shot his cousin, Butler argued.

"He did leave a witness," Butler said. "She fought. She fought to get to that telephone and ask for help. . . . She told you who the murderer was."

There is no reason Hawkins would lie with her dying breaths, Butler said.


Jurors ask to view taped testimony in 2 slayings

Jurors began deliberating last night in the retrial of John Patrick McCreary, a Trimble County man accused of killing his cousin and her boyfriend at the couple's Jefferson County home.

Just after 9 p.m., jurors were brought back to the courtroom after deliberating three hours and were taken to a hotel, where they are being sequestered. Deliberations will resume this morning.

The jury last night asked to watch recorded testimony from several witnesses. Jefferson Circuit Judge Steve Mershon calculated that viewing the tapes would take seven hours, but he did not tell jurors that. Instead, he told them they would have to watch all the testimony for each witness they request.

Mershon subsequently told jurors he would give them some time this morning to determine if they still wanted to watch all of the testimony.

McCreary, 28, of Bedford, could face the death penalty if he is convicted of murdering Jessica Hawkins, 24, and Joel Blevins, 29. The couple were shot about 6 p.m. on March 22, 2001, at their Scenic Trail home.

McCreary's first trial ended in March with a jury split 8-4 in favor of a conviction, according to lawyers on the case then.

Although investigators found none of the victims' blood on McCreary, his clothes or in his car, prosecutors based their case, as they did in the first trial, on a 911-call tape where a dying Jessica Hawkins said "my cousin" shot her. Prosecutors also claim she said "Pat" or "Patrick."

Prosecutors have alluded to a possible robbery motive.

John Patrick McCreary's defense teams disputed in both trials in that Hawkins identified McCreary.

During closing arguments yesterday, defense lawyer Ken McCardwell, who was not involved in the first trial, said Hawkins told the 911 operator that Travis Thompson, one of Blevins' cousins, had killed her.

McCardwell also said that because Blevins was involved with drugs and that drugs were sold from the home, any number of people could have had motives to kill him and his girlfriend.

Additionally, McCardwell said McCreary couldn't have driven from the Jefferson County home at 6 p.m. and gotten to a friend's house near Bedford by 6:30 p.m. The friend testified to having seen McCreary at that time.

McCardwell also questioned the lack of physical evidence presented by the prosecution.

In the 20 months since McCreary was arrested, McCardwell said, McCreary's father and grandfather have died. "Everybody's life is important, but it would be equally tragic to send him to prison or to send him to the electric chair on a circumstantial-evidence case," McCardwell said.

Prosecutor Brian Butler objected after the reference to the electric chair, and Mershon said jurors were only deciding guilt or innocence.

In the prosecution's closing, Butler said that, in fact, McCreary never went to the friend's house near Bedford after the shooting. Instead, he was first seen at a different home nearby about 90 minutes after the shooting -- enough time to drive there, the prosecutor said.

Butler referred jurors to testimony from the aunt of both McCreary and Hawkins and from one of Hawkins' friends -- both of whom told police that they talked by phone to a dying Hawkins and that she said McCreary had shot her. He also cited the testimony of the 911 operator, who testified Hawkins identified McCreary.

And he told jurors not to let Hawkins' dying declaration go in vain.

"She deserves justice," he said.