Opening arguments heard in Andrew Hill murder case

Jan. 30—THOMASVILLE- Opening arguments began in the State vs. Anthony Ralph Hires (Tony) and Anthony Ralph Hires II (Seth) on Monday morning. Prosecutors argued Tony and Seth Hires murdered Andrew Hill on August 30, 2023, while on a job site in Boston, Ga.

Led by District Attorney Jess Hornsby, the state claims the Hires were under the belief that Hill had knowledge of the disappearance of Trent Hires, which led them to callously murder Hill before his body was later dumped at a remote location in Brooks County.

While prosecutors led the jury to believe the case was a simple black-and-white case, the defense argued that multiple people on the job site had issues with Hill and any of them could've murdered him.

Tony Hires' attorney, Beau Mullin, began his opening argument with a personal story about his time as a grocer at the local Piggly Wiggly. While working there, Mullin was responsible for making the shelves look stocked. He said he would essentially push all the boxes to the front, ensuring that shelves appeared full, when in reality there was a lot of open space behind those first two boxes. Mullin argued this was what the state was doing.

Mullin said the verbal testimony of individuals on the job site made the case appear to have copious amounts of evidence, but in reality, no weapons were ever found on his client, nor was blood from the deceased. The only DNA evidence ever located was that of Hill's on an armrest in Seth Hires' car, which had been borrowed at various times.

Rick Collum, attorney for Seth Hires, concurred with Mullin. When recounting the events on the day of August 30, 2023, Collum said Hill was performing construction work for Jay Grubb. However, Hill had been accused of molesting Grubb's daughter, Collum said, giving him a motive to kill Hill as well.

Collum said the absence of physical evidence linking Seth Hires to Hill's murder is just as important as the verbal testimonies jurors would hear during the course of the trial.

Upon the conclusion of the defense's opening arguments, the State called its first witness, Thomas County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division Captain Tim Watkins.

Watkins told the jury that at about 5:30 p.m. August 30, 2023, he received a call from John Baker, who said he had witnessed a shooting on Martin Road in Boston earlier that day.

Watkins testified that he, along with his fellow investigators drove to the house, where they believed the individual who had been shot would still be. He affirmed the investigators entered the home through the garage, announcing their presence, before he began heading toward the downstairs basement area, where he first noticed specks of blood. As he called out for additional investigators, he began searching for a victim, secured the scene, and called the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

When no victim was located, Watkins said he knew he was now working a homicide. The following morning, while at his office, Watkins received a call from a confidential informant, later identified as John Bryant, that Hill's body was located in Brooks County.

With the state resting their questioning of Watkins, Mullin began his cross-examination. He asked Watkins if he had ever had any interaction with Baker prior to the call about the murder.

Watkins confirmed that Baker would be considered a "frequent flyer" at the Thomas County Sheriff's Office and had been locked up by Watkins on occasions.

Knowing this, Mullin questioned if Watkins believed Baker truly called because he had no connection to the murder or did he call because he had hoped this would help him out with his own criminal history.

Watkins said it was impossible to know Baker's true motives for the call.

Mullin also asked about footprints found at the scene of the crime, footprints that matched that of confidential informant Bryant, who took them to the location of the body.

Watkins said he did not know of any footprints, but the defense argued that it could clearly be seen in a photograph.

Collum followed Mullin's lead in the questioning about the blood and possible footprints. Collum asked if Watkins and his team took precautions to not get blood on them. Watkins affirmed they took all necessary precautions to not disturb the crime scene, including jumping over puddles of blood to not leave a footprint.

Collum took the opportunity to ask if someone such as his client was in a tussle with the deceased, would they have time to be so careful as to not leave any DNA or footprints?

Watkins said he was unsure of what lengths one may go to at a crime scene, and could only speak to what he is required to do.

With that, the state called their next witness Thomas County Sheriff's Office Forensics/ID Lieutenant John Sellers.

Sellers explained he is responsible for documenting and photographing the crime scene, along with searching for voids in the home, where something may have once been.

Sellers said during his photography of the Hill scene he photographed bone fragments, blood, a missing tooth, and lead fragments from a shell.

Mullin asked if Sellers is also required to wear protective gear so as to not disturb the crime scene, and he confirmed he was.

Mullin asked when photographing the scene did he find anything linking Tony Hires to the crime. Sellers stated he did not find anything linking Tony or Seth Hires to the crime during his investigation.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Seth Allen was the final witness for the state on opening day. However, unlike the witnesses before him, he processed the home of Tony and Seth Hires, where he did find possible items used in the crime, although none directly correlated.

Allen responded to the Hires home, where he photographed multiple shotgun shells, Seth's phone, and two camouflage hoodies that were reportedly worn at the time of the murder.

Mullin asked Allen if it was uncommon for people in Thomas County to have the type of ammunition found at their home. Allen shared that it was not. Mullin also asked if at any time, did he see blood during his photo documentation. Allen said he did not. Mullin concluded by asking if it looked like the Hires had cleaned up, possibly trying to hide the clothes they wore. Allen said the home was disheveled and that nothing in the home directly linked the father-son duo to the murder of Hill.

The state and defense thanked the witness for his time and concluded the first day of the trial. It resumed on Tuesday and is expected to last 3-4 days before a verdict from the jury will be heard by Judge Richard Cowart.