Witness says Walber tortured before his murder
Two years after the incident, an inmate at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center told authorities he watched Randy Hutchinson torture the 16-year-old car-jacking victim, beating him five times before James Skinner repeatedly drove over the teenager with his own car.
Serving a 5-year sentence for distributing cocaine, Sam Scott was in the center’s “boot camp” program, and in April of 2000, he told his boot camp coordinator that his conscience bothered him. After seeing Eric Walber’s murder featured on the television shows America’s Most Wanted and Psychic Detective, Scott said he could neither eat nor sleep and needed to speak to someone with the sheriff’s office in Livingston Parish.
Scott later testified at Michael Wearry’s trial. As the state’s star witness, he recounted every detail of that horrible night for a crowded courtroom.
Sometime after dark on April 4, 1998, Sam Scott, Michael Wearry, Darrell Hampton, Shadrick Reed, Randy Hutchinson, and others stood, shooting dice, in the front yard of a home on McCarroll Street, not far from Hutchinson’s residence.
According to Scott, when Wearry—wearing an unusually formal pink shirt and slacks—lost all of his money, he said he wanted to find someone to rob. At that moment, a red Ford Escort pulled onto McCarroll Street from Highway 43. Wearry pointed at the car, telling the group if the vehicle passed again, they would rob the driver.
Approximately 15 minutes later, 16-year-old Eric Walber, returning from another Pizza Express delivery, drove back by the group. Randy Hutchinson flagged him down by standing in the street. As Eric Walber lowered his driver’s side window, Wearry ran up and hit him three times in the face through the open driver’s side window.
Wearry and Hutchinson opened the driver’s door, pulled Walber out, and began beating him in the head. Wearry took Walber’s black tri-fold wallet from the pocket of Walber’s jeans and his class ring from his finger.
Climbing into the driver seat of Eric Walber’s car, Wearry ordered Scott, Reed, and Hampton to join him on a drive to buy marijuana. Hutchinson pushed Walber through the passenger door and into the hatchback of the car, Scott climbed into the passenger seat next to him, and Hampton, Hutchinson, and Reed slid into the back seat.
Inside the car, Scott saw a Scrabble board game, a hand-held electronic poker game, a deck of cards and a portable compact disc player. He saw new car speakers, a school backpack, and a smaller travel bag. Inside the pack, he saw Girbaud brand blue jeans and a Tommy Hilfiger shirt.
Wearry drove approximately 3 minutes before Walber started talking and Wearry turned down a gravel drive, somewhere off Presbyterian Road in Springfield. He parked the car near a church graveyard and ordered the group out of the vehicle.
Hutchinson drug Walber from the hatchback and up the gravel road, leaving him in a kneeling position in front of the car’s headlights. Wearry stepped up and began punching Walber in the face while Hutchinson beat him with a black, shiny stick for 20 minutes or more.
Here is where the story takes an even stranger turn.
According to Scott, the crew then climbed back into the car, seated in their same positions with Eric Walber wounded and moaning in the hatchback. They drove to an abandoned house near the location of their dice game and again pulled Walber from the car for another stick beating.
After another 20 minutes, they climbed back into the car a third time, sitting in the same position with Walber again moaning in the hatchback.
This time, Walber drove further down Highway 43 toward Albany. Near a convenience store called Potluck Too, where he recognized a passing car and flashed his headlights to flag it down. Both vehicles pulled into the store parking lot, and Wearry asked the driver of the second vehicle, Eric Charles Brown, if he had any weed for sale.
Beyond the range of Scott’s hearing, Wearry spoke to Brown’s passenger, James Skinner, who then joined them in the red Escort.
This time, Skinner drove. They found another location, pulled Walber to the front of the car, and the group again watched Hutchinson beat Walber with a nightstick under the high beams of the car’s headlights.
After another 20 minutes, the crew loaded up for the fifth time and drove across the Tangipahoa Parish line to Crisp Road, where Walber’s final beating took place.
According to Scott, this time Hutchinson and Wearry stood Walber in the middle of the gravel road with each holding him up by one of his shoulders. Skinner jumped back into the car and drove into the darkness. Soon, they heard the revving of the engine as the vehicle accelerated toward the group at top speed. Wearry and Hutchinson let go of Walber’s shoulders, just as the frontend struck his chest.
As the group watched, Skinner drove the vehicle back and forth multiple times over Walber’s now silent body.
Later, Wearry and Skinner drug Eric Walber to the side of the road, and the group rode away, leaving Walber’s lifeless corpse face down in the dirt.
Scott said he saw Wearry driving Eric’s car the following day and again the day after. Police found the red Ford Escort behind the school on April 8, 1998, four days after the murder.
Sam Scott offered no explanation for the multiple stops to multiple locations or the repeated beatings, but another witness, 10-year-old Jeffrey Ashton of Springfield, told the court that he also saw Wearry and Hutchinson in Eric Walber’s car that night.
According to his court testimony, at approximately 11:20 p.m., little Ashton was walking home from a music program at the church across the street from his residence when he heard footsteps and men arguing.
He ran and hid under his family’s mobile home, and from there, he saw Michael Wearry, Randy Hutchinson, and Darrell Hampton throw something into a roadside ditch before climbing back into the red Ford Escort and driving away.
Sam Scott and Jeffrey Ashton both told the court they saw Michael Wearry driving Eric Walber’s car that night, but that is not all the two have in common. The families of both witnesses insist their family member committed perjury on the stand when each testified, together insisting Sam Scott and Jeffrey Ashton were not in Springfield or Albany on the night of Walber’s death. These relatives claim that throughout the timetable described in their testimonies, their family members were 20 miles away, attending the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival with their respective families.
More to come…