MOTIVE OFFERED IN SLAYING
William Hughes was angry with Jason Plaster because he believed Plaster had “disrespected” him by making sexual advances toward his teenage daughter and exposing himself to Hughes’ wife, a prosecutor said Monday at the beginning of his trial in Stafford County Circuit Court.
In her opening statement, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Lori DiGiosia said Hughes hatched and carried out a plan to kill the 31-year-old Plaster sometime in July 2007 before “discarding him like trash.”
Hughes, 45, is charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony. His scheduled three-day jury trial began Monday.
Plaster was reported missing by his family in August 2007. His green Kia was found abandoned in the 300 block of Charles Street in Fredericksburg around that time.
However, his whereabouts was not known until March of last year, when a several-day excavation project resulted in the recovery of his remains on a large tract of land off 881 Belle Plains Road near Potomac Creek in southern Stafford.
Police had arrested the property owner, Dennis Paul Benzie, on multiple drug-related offenses when they asked him about Plaster’s disappearance and promised him immunity from murder charges in exchange for information.
DiGiosia said Benzie, who has a long criminal record, told police that Hughes and another man had shot Plaster and buried his body on Benzie’s property.
He later identified that second man as Stuart Lee Sullivan, who has already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for his role in the slaying.
Both Benzie and Sullivan are expected to testify against Hughes today.
According to the evidence, Sullivan, Hughes and Plaster showed up at Benzie’s property one day under the pretense of examining some firearms that were buried on the property. After they were deep in the woods, Benzie told police, Hughes shot Plaster without warning and Plaster fell and cried out in pain.
Benzie and Sullivan said Hughes then ordered Sullivan to shoot the victim, who they said appeared to be already dead. Sullivan told authorities he did so because he feared retribution from Hughes against him and his family.
The three then dug a hole, covered Plaster with lime and buried him.
Benzie said he then took Plaster’s car to Fredericksburg and abandoned it.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Chris Feldmann called the prosecution case a “shot in the dark.” He said neither Sullivan nor Benzie are credible and said they are implicating Hughes to lessen their own culpability.
The defense attorney noted that Benzie has already received immunity and that the 9 mm bullet lodged in Plaster’s skull was fired by Sullivan. He said Hughes was not at the scene and had nothing to do with the slaying.
Prosecutors DiGiosia and Ed Lustig called three witnesses Monday before Judge Michael Levy sent the jurors home for the night.
Detective Chris Cameron testified in detail about his interviews with Benzie and Sullivan that led to Hughes’ arrest.
Benzie led police to the general area where the body had been buried, but Cameron said Sullivan was able to give a more specific location.
Cameron said both Benzie and Sullivan expressed fear about Hughes’ motorcycle gang connections, saying he was the president of an area Warlocks chapter.
There was also mention of the Pagans and Hell’s Angels.
Cameron said Sullivan claims he didn’t know a murder was planned for that day and was shocked when Hughes suddenly shot Plaster with his Derringer.
Feldmann began attacking the credibility of Benzie and Sullivan on Monday.
Under cross-examination, Cameron acknowledged that Benzie told several different stories before sticking to one.
Feldmann also pointed out that the only rounds recovered at the scene were 9 mm rounds. Sullivan admitted using a 9 mm.
Ben Woodson, a crime scene technician, and a former city police officer who found Plaster’s car were the only other witnesses Monday.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404