McDowell shooting case goes to grand jury
PRESTONSBURG — Loretta Wright appeared in Floyd District Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing following the shooting death of her brother-in-law, Famer Halbert, last week.
Loretta Wright kept her head down and her eyes closed through most of Tuesday’s testimony, as Kentucky State Police Det. Jason Dials relayed to the court the events surrounding Halbert’s death.
According to Dials’ testimony, Ronald and Loretta Wright had come by the home to visit with Lorene and Famer Halbert, and had been discussing the death of their son. Dials said that the Wrights visited with Lorene Halbert for probably 30 minutes, while Famer was asleep in his bedroom. As they were getting ready to leave, Ronald Wright allegedly asked to use the restroom. As Lorene Halbert and Loretta Wright waited on the front porch, a gunshot was heard.
Dials said 54-year-old Famer Halbert, of McDowell, died in his bed of a close contact gunshot to the forehead.
Dials then testified that multiple struggles ensued over the weapon, and that during these struggles both Lorene Halbert and Ronald Wright were shot. According to Dials, the Halberts’ seven grandchildren were home at the time of the shooting, and some of those children have issued statements saying they witnessed the struggle over the weapon.
According to Dials, following the struggle, the Wrights took the weapon and fled the scene. Dials said the children gave statements that the Wrights were smiling when they left, “happy with what they’d done.”
Dials testified that no official murder weapon has yet to be recovered, though he added that .357 ammunition was found in Ronald Wright’s possession. Dials told the court on Tuesday that the weapon that killed Famer Halbert was a “large caliber projectile.”
Lorene Halbert, 50, of McDowell, was treated and released for a single gunshot wound.
Loretta Wright is currently charged with one count of complicity to commit murder and one count of attempted murder. Ronald Wright, who is being treated for his gunshot wound in West Virginia, has reportedly been served with an arrest warrant, and is awaiting extradition back to Kentucky.
Floyd County District Judge Jimmy Marcum remanded the case to the hands of a Floyd County grand jury. Because the Halberts’ grandchildren were in the home at the time of the shooting, the grand jury could add as many as seven counts of first-degree wanton endangerment against the Wrights.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Brent Turner said his office would have to review all of the evidence after an indictment before they could make a determination to seek the death penalty.
“After we get all the evidence in, we will sit down and review that,” Turner said. “We would make it known fairly soon after we got an indictment.”
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