Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

TOP STORY >>Victim's mom opposed to killer's early parole

IN SHORT: Michael Webb is the only one still jailed of four convicted in the Sherwood murder of a 17-year-old in 1993.

Leader staff writer

A convicted killer is up for parole, and the victim’s mother says it’s too early—way too early.

“My son was shot in the back. Murdered!” she wrote in a letter opposing the parole. “The scale of justice has not been served for my son’s life.”

Michael R. Webb, who is now 33, of Little Rock, was convicted in early 1996 of the December 1993 shooting death of Jason Hatcher, a Sherwood teen, who was 17 at the time of his death.

Webb is the only one of the four convicted in the incident still in jail.

Webb, who was 21 at the time of the shooting, was found guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree battery. He was sentenced to 40 years on the murder charge and six years for the battery count, to be served consecutively. So far he has served just about 10.5 years.

Webb asked for clemency in 2004, but he was turned down.

His parole hearing—his first—is set for Aug. 16. If approved, he could be released as early as Dec. 12. The victim’s mother, Kathy Hatcher; the Pulaski County prosecutor’s office and others oppose to Webb’s release met with the parole board earlier today. A final decision will be made Aug. 31.

Webb was one of four individuals involved in the shooting in the Harvest Foods parking lot in Sherwood, off Highway 107, just north of North Hills Boulevard. Prosecutors, according to the victim’s mother, did not try to prove which of the four actually shot Hatcher.

“Because of the accomplice liability law, the prosecutors set out to prove they were all guilty of murder by participating together in the actions that killed Jason on the night of Dec. 17, 1993,” Kathy Hatcher, who now lives in Ward, wrote in her recent letter to the parole board.

The prosecutors decided to try all four—Webb, Jason Carter, Chad Jones and James Gross—separately. Hatcher said this prevented jurors from hearing from others involved in Webb’s trial because of ongoing appeals. But Hatcher, who sat through all the trials, is convinced that Webb was the one who actually shot her son.

Carter, 18 at the time of the shooting and from Little Rock, was found guilty of first-degree murder, battery and aggravated as-sault.

He was sentenced to 60 years on the murder count, 30 years for battery and 10 years for the assault, all to run concurrently. He was paroled in March 2005.

Even though Carter got more time for the murder than anyone else, because of his age at the time of the shooting, an attorney general’s opinion allowed him to be paroled at any time.

Jones, 22 at the time, and a Cabot resident, was found guilty of first-degree murder and battery.

He was given 32 years on the murder charges and five years for the battery, to run concurrently. He was paroled in August 2004. Gross, 19 at the time, and from Gravel Ridge, was found not guilty of murder, but was convicted of battery and aggravated assault.

He was sentenced to six years on each charge, to run concurrently. He was the first to be paroled, in December 1996.

According to Leader articles and police reports at the time, there was a fight in the Harvest Foods parking lot.

Jason and others, who were at Taco Bell, came over to see what was going on. Gross, Tim McGarity and others were fighting.
About that time a car pulled up with Webb, Jones and Carter. Carter had a pistol and was firing it in the air as the vehicle pulled in.

Prosecutor John Johnson said apparently the pistol was passed around between Carter, Gross and Jones. McGarity ended up shot in the knee.

Shortly thereafter someone got a rifle out from the trunk of the car and began firing.

“By this time, “Johnson said, “everyone was running away and Hatcher was shot in the back. The bullet went completely through him.” In her letter to the parole board, Hatcher said police found lead fragments and copper casings at the crime scene.

She said the lead fragments were traced back to a gun found at Gross’s grandmother’s home. The copper casings were traced back to a rifle found at Webb’s home.

Copper fragments were found in Jason’s back, she wrote. Johnson agreed with most of Hatcher’s recall, but said the gun was found in Gross’s mom’s attic.

Johnson said the investigation found that Webb left the crime scene and went to the home of some friends. He walked in carrying his rifle and bragging.

Hatcher, in her letter, said that “Webb bragged to his friends by saying ‘I think I got one’ or ‘I think I shot one’ and that the worst part was he ‘had to throw his taco down.’”

Hatcher closed her letter, writing,  “I pray that you keep him in jail to show deterrence to other young people to not use guns, to show justice by giving punishment for murder, to make Webb take responsibility for his actions.”