The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Will Hash go free? Prosecutor ‘working diligently’ to decide
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
Michael Hash and his family hope that their next court date will be their last.
That next appearance is set for Aug. 20, just eight days before the Commonwealth of Virginia must either re-charge Hash for the 1996 murder of 74-year-old Thelma Scroggins or give him his unconditional freedom.
“We’re working diligently toward that deadline,” special prosecutor Ray Morrogh told Circuit Judge J.T. Swet Monday.
Morrogh added that some crime-scene evidence has been tested, but results from a second lab are not yet complete.
Hash, then 19, was convicted in 2001 of shooting Scroggins almost execution style in her Lignum home. He was 15 when the killing occurred.
Two other boys were also arrested in 2000 and charged in the July murder. A jury found Jason Kloby innocent, while Eric Weakley was sentenced to 15 years in prison as part of a plea bargain in which he agreed to testify against the others. He is now a free man.
Hash, now 31, spent almost 12 years in prison before federal judge James C. Turk set aside his conviction Feb. 28, saying Culpeper authorities violated Hash’s rights” by not disclosing that Commonwealth Attorney Gary Close’s office had made a deal with Paul Carter, a convicted felon and a known jailhouse snitch.
“Having reviewed the voluminous record in this case, the court is disturbed by the miscarriage of justice in this case and finds that Hash’s trial is an example of an ‘extreme malfunction’ in the state criminal justice system,” Turk wrote in his 64-page opinion.
That led to Close’s resignation on March 12 and Hash’s freedom on bail the next day.
Turk ordered that Hash either be charged again within six months or be set free.
Morrogh began conducting a new investigation into the Scroggins’ murder soon after he was appointed in early March.
In May, the Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney posted signs at the Lignum post office asking that anyone with information come forward.
Virtually no physical evidence—including the gun with which Scroggins was shot several times—was found at the crime scene in 1996. Her truck, which disappeared the night she was killed, was located in a secluded field by a hunter several weeks after the murder.
There were no fingerprints found either at the home or on the truck, according to court testimony.
Only Weakley’s testimony directly tied the three boys to the crime.