WILLIAMSON, W.Va. – Anthony R. Arriaga pleaded not guilty in the murder of coal executive Ben Hatfield during his arraignment on Thursday morning in Mingo County Circuit Court.
He will be held without bond in the Southwestern Regional Jail at Holden. Arriaga showed little emotion as he appeared before Judge Miki Thompson. The judge read the charges to the suspect which is one count of 1st degree murder.
Thompson told Arriaga, “This is a capital offense in the state of West Virginia. The possible punishment for this crime is life in prison without mercy. That means you would not be eligible for parole.”
“This is a serious offense. The defendant was out of state, so the court considers him a flight risk,” Thompson stressed. “Considering all the factors – the court will not set a bond in this case.”
Another murder charge is pending for Brandon Fitzpatrick, who was allegedly with Arriaga on Sunday afternoon when the homicide took place at Mountain View Memory Gardens cemetery located along U.S. 52 at Maher, W.Va. Fitzpatrick is being held in Kenton County, Kentucky and extradition procedures are underway to bring him back to Mingo County to face murder charges.
Williamson public defenders Dave Foley and Will Duty represented Arriaga for the arraignment. A court-appointed attorney will be provided for the defendant in the near future. His preliminary hearing will be held sometime within the next 10 days, tentatively June 3, according to Judge Thompson.
Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Maynard and Assistant Prosecutor Josh Ferrell represented the state.
Arriaga was escorted to the hearing under heavy security by Sheriff James Smith and several of his deputies. When Arriaga was being escorted to the elevator to be transported back to jail, he was surrounded by local television media. He muttered two statements when questions were fired at him by reporters. Arriaga said, “I just want to apologize to the man’s family.”
He also mumbled, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Ricky Peterson of Wayne, W.Va. has also been charged in the case. He allegedly transported Arriaga back to Allen County, Ohio where he was later arrested.
(Editor’s Note: Read separate story on what the sheriff’s department believes was the motive for the murder.)
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)