Guilty plea in Chocowinity murder

Published 9:03 pm Friday, August 30, 2013

Richard Armstead

Richard Armstead


Richard Leon Armstead pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Beaufort County Superior Court Friday. The day also marked his 25th birthday.

Armstead was arrested July 5, 2010, after a standoff with police at an apartment complex in Greenville. His arrest came two days after his girlfriend and mother of his two young children, Miki Hatcher, was found dead at their Chocowinity home by a neighbor.

In a plea arrangement with the state, the initial first-degree murder charge against Armstead was reduced to second-degree murder. Armstead held his folded hands to his mouth as Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons Jr. heard the plea in open court. The class B2 felony carries a maximum sentence of 37 years in prison.

According to District Attorney Seth Edwards, several of Hatcher’s neighbors on Sam’s Road said the couple had been fighting continuously for several days before the death was reported. It appeared the children had witnessed the incident, Edwards wrote in an email.

During a summary of the case, Assistant District Attorney Ray Cameron told the court a neighbor discovered the deceased Hatcher after the children were found unattended outside the home. Another witness, who admitted to driving Armstead to Greenville the night of July 3, 2010, told authorities Armstead had blood on his clothing when he got in the vehicle and had claimed he’d gotten into a fight and was afraid he’d killed someone, according to Cameron.

Armstead would barricade himself in a Summer Place apartment before surrendering to authorities later that night.

The medical examiner ruled the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head, but Hatcher had other injuries, as well, Cameron said.

“There were two broken ribs, multiple abrasions and lacerations, some of which appeared to have taken place before this incident,” Cameron told Sermons.

After Armstead’s guilty plea, defense attorney Tonza Ruffin requested sentencing be postponed until the October session of Superior Court, in order to fully explore mitigating factors to be weighed by Sermons during sentencing.

Sermons said he expected the District Attorney was “not going to reach an agreement on mitigating factors in light of the plea going from first-degree murder to second.”

Armstead, whose trial was scheduled for Sept. 16, has been incarcerated for three years.