Information, luck key to finding suspects

MARYSVILLE Police Detective Sgt. Deryck McLeod said finding suspects in the three-year-old murder of Charles Hughley primarily was a matter of taking a different look at aging information.

That and, he admitted, a little bit of luck.

Police have now charged two suspects with second-degree murder in connection with the homicide of Hughley, who was 39 when police found his body in a vacant Beach Avenue home on April 13, 2005.

At the time, reports said police routinely patrolled through the home, known to be a hangout for local transients.

The latest advance in the case came on May 9 when police re-arrested Justin Trent, 26, alleging he had further involvement in the murder than officials initially believed.

Officials first arrested Trent April 9 for investigation of rendering criminal assistance. At the time, a police spokesman said Trent was believed to have been present when Hughley was murdered and may have participated in hiding evidence of the crime. Trent was later released on bond, but McLeod said further investigation led officials to file the murder charge against him.

The same charge has been filed against Matthew Hedgcoth, 21, arrested April 30.

According to the Snohomish County Jail Web site, both are still sitting in jail awaiting bail.

McLeod said some aspects of the case still are under investigation and more arrests are possible. He added one issue still being studied is who police believe was directly responsible for Hughley's death.

While he declined to give any details, he said police are convinced one person struck the blow that actually killed Hughley.

Hughley was stabbed to death according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office.

"We know both the suspects that have been booked have more information," McLeod said.

Besides trying to obtain more testimony from the suspects, police were waiting last week for results from the county crime lab, which is testing both old and new pieces of evidence in the case. Can three-year-old material evidence reveal any new clues?

"DNA technology has made huge leaps in the last three years," McLeod said.

Police are also uncertain of what the motive may have been in the case. He said the alleged attack on Hughley might have been in retaliation for a previous altercation.

According to McLeod, police never really closed Hughley's case. But he decided to take a new look at it after his promotion to the detective squad in January.

"We just decided to look at some stuff … stuff that maybe just needed some new eyes," McLeod said.

At the time of his murder, police described Hughley as homeless. McLeod said many of the potential suspects spoken with also were homeless.

"It's a transient lifestyle you're dealing with," he said, which three years ago only served to complicate locating some of the people police wanted to talk with. The difference now was what McLeod described as good detective work. He also said finding the suspects was where the luck referred to early came into play.

A press release given out following Trent's initial arrest said police were conducting their follow-up investigation into Hughley's death when they learned Trent was allegedly present during the crime. The release also said officers quickly found him in Stanwood and took him into custody.

Talking to The Globe shortly after the initial incident, Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux did not seem to think investigators had much to work with in terms of clues after Hughley was found.

"There's really nothing at the crime scene that would suggest a motive," Lamoureux said.

He talked about taking fingerprints from beer bottles and other similar items at the scene, but wasn't convinced they would be of much help.

"Most often you have some kind of story that points you in a direction," Lamoureux said.

He described the victim as someone with a minor criminal history, including only a couple of traffic citations and one disorderly conduct charge. His family did tell police Hughley had a drinking problem.

"There's not a lot of history there," Lamoureux said.

According to McLeod, Hughley still has a sister living in Marysville who police have kept informed of advances into the investigation of her brother's death. He said there was a definite amount of satisfaction in being able to tell her the case had not been forgotten.

McLeod repeatedly said detectives who worked on the case originally laid a solid investigative foundation.

"We wouldn't be where we are without them," he said.

In terms of once cold cases, besides hopefully reaching what they believe is the final solution to the Hughley case, McLeod said officers currently are actively investigating yet another aging homicide, this one from 10 years ago.

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