Nov. 11—A Beckley man was found guilty on Thursday by a Raleigh County jury of murdering a seven-year-old autistic boy with a hammer in addition to five other charges related to a violent episode last year when he also stabbed his former girlfriend and the boy's mother with a kitchen knife multiple times.
It took roughly two hours of deliberation for the 12-person jury to convict Rashad "Rico" Thompson, 36, of Beckley, of first-degree murder, child abuse resulting in death and domestic battery for the death of 7-year-old Tre-shaun Brown in March 2021.
The charge carries a life sentence, but the jury further recommended that Thompson, 36, be granted mercy, or the possibility of parole, after serving a set minimum number of years.
Thompson was also found guilty of attempted first-degree murder, malicious wounding and a second count of domestic battery for stabbing his then-girlfriend and Tre-shaun's mother, Felicia Brown.
Following their verdict, the jury heard testimony from witnesses brought by the defense and the prosecution to determine whether Thompson should be granted mercy for the capital offense of first-degree murder.
Those testifying for the defense sang the praises of Thompson, calling him a loving father and compassionate individual.
"I was here last week for the trial and the person that was portrayed, and the jury found guilty, is not the person that I know and is not that person that I've ever known," said Michael Fowlkes, Thompson's cousin and former basketball coach. He added that if the jury granted mercy, Fowlkes and Thompson's entire family would be there to support Thompson upon his release.
Thompson's older brother, Ahmad, who also spoke during the mercy phase of trial, said he did not agree with the jury's verdict regarding the charges, but he was thankful to see that they did recommend mercy for his brother.
"By the grace of God, he got the mercy," Ahmad said, adding that he felt his brother was up against a losing battle.
"I don't think nobody slandered (Thompson). I just think that ... their mind was made up," Ahmad said. "Like they do got a little bit of evidence, but to me it was just too rocky."
Following the guilty verdict on all charges, Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield told The Register-Herald that he believed the outcome was overwhelmingly supported by the evidence submitted during the trial.
"It's a case I've believed in for nearly two years now," Hatfield said. "The graphic nature of the case put it at the top of my mind all the time. and the case that we put on for the jury, they found that the facts were as we displayed that they were."
When asked about his thoughts given the recommendation for mercy, Hatfield said a jury's decision on mercy is not always understandable.
"I would like to think that the severity of the malicious and deliberate nature of the injury inflicted upon the kid would factor into that because at the point where mercy was decided, guilt was no longer in doubt ... but I don't know that we'll ever fully know what goes into those decisions," he said.
Hatfield said the two-week murder trial weighed heavily on him because he has daughters around the same age as Tre-shaun at the time of his death.
"Having daughters myself, this case was specifically hard," he said. "Tre-shaun would have been directly between my oldest daughter and my middle daughter in age and for that reason — most days I would find something to do around the office to wait on a period in time where I can go home and be with my family — today, I just want to go home. I just want to go home."
Sentencing for Thompson has been set for 9 a.m. Dec. 14 in front of Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick, who presided over the two-week trial.
For Thompson's sentencing Hatfield said he will be pursuing consecutive instead of concurrent sentencing.
"Even though he received mercy on the first-degree murder charge, consecutive sentences would mean essentially 37 years to life," he said. "It's not the 15 (years) that a normal mercy would be in a case where murder is the only count. There are other counts that he was found guilty of and if run consecutive, the maximum possible penalty is 37 to life."
The final day of the two-week trial began Thursday morning with the prosecuting atorney's closing statements.
Hatfield did not hold back in the retelling of the gruesome events of late March 17, 2021, and into the early hours of the next day that left Brown with multiple stab wounds and her 7-year-old son dead on the couch in their apartment.
Hatfield explained that the catalyst for this series of events was an argument between Thompson and Brown while they were eating dinner and consuming alcohol.
But the couple's verbal tiff would eventually turn physical and end with Brown fleeing from their apartment, bloody, and with multiple stab wounds to her stomach, chest and head inflicted by Thompson with a kitchen knife, said Hatfield referring to witness testimony.
Moments later, a neighbor, asked by Brown to go get her two kids left in the apartment, would find Tre-shaun dead on the couch. Hatfield said DNA evidence belonging to Tre-shaun found on a hammer lying in the living room floor of the apartment, as well as on the hands and face of Thompson after his arrest, point to Thompson as the cause of the young boy's death.
"...(Thompson) raised a hammer, claw side down, and inflicted a bone-busting, flesh-tearing deliberately malicious attack that ended the life of Tre-shaun Brown," he said. "Over and over every time he struck that baby boy, blood casting off this hammer (and) up one side of the wall, across the ceiling, down the next side of the wall. With every blow he landed decisively ending Tre-shaun Brown's life.
"You know how you know?" Hatfield asked the jury.
"We saw the photos," he said, showing the jury the crime scene photos of Tre-shaun lying on a couch with blood pooling around his head and blood splattered on the walls and ceiling.
"A lot of what people think attorneys do is ask you to believe something," Hatfield said. "I'm not asking you to believe anything.
"I'm asking you to take the evidence, take the testimony, take when it was given and apply it to this case and what happened and these injuries and this dead boy."
Thompson's defense attorney, Stanley Selden, argued in his closing that Hatfield was doing exactly the opposite of what he was claiming to do.
"He's asking you to believe in his version of how the events transpired on days of March 17th and 18th of 2021," Selden said, pleading with the jury to question whether the prosecution's "story" was reasonable, believable, credible or made sense.
He then led into his own story of how he believed the events transpired that night, pointing the finger at Brown for the death of her own son and saying that she acted out of anger and frustration after receiving bad news from Tre-shaun's school earlier in the day.
"It's a terrible thing that a mother could kill her own child," Selden said. "She had the frame of mine, she had the history, she had the alcohol inebriation, she had the frustration with the school board. All of this could add up."
This theory was met with an objection from Hatfield.
"These are facts not in evidence nor told by any witness," Hatfield said. "I typically don't object during closing, but this is a story not been told.
"This is an alternate theory of the crimes, your honor," Selden replied.
Kirkpatrick overruled Hatfield's objection, advising the jury that attorneys were allowed a certain amount of leeway in closings, but it would be ultimately up to to them to decide the facts of the case.
Following their guilty verdict on all counts, the jury heard testimony on whether or not Thompson deserved to be granted mercy, or the possibility of parole for his conviction of first-degree murder.
In pleading Thompson's case, Selden called five witnesses — Thompson's mother, brother and cousin as well as a former elementary school principal and a longtime family friend.
When asked by Selden why Thompson deserved to be granted mercy, Thompson's mother, Signora Celeste Reed, said, "Because he's a good person. He's an honest, good compassionate person. He has empathy for anyone that's having any kind of issue regardless ... Everyone deserves a second chance."
When called by the prosecution to testify for the mercy hearing, Brown said the actions of Thompson forever changed her life in the most unimaginable way.
"I feel like I'm living every mother's worst nightmare," Brown said. "My life ended the night that this happened (to Tre-shaun). Rico (Thompson) may not have physically killed me, but he emotionally and mentally destroyed my life forever."
Thompson has been at Southern Regional Jail since March 18, 2021. His bond stands at $250,000, according to the West Virginia Regional Jail website.