All charges dismissed in fatal campground beating after cause of death revised

Posted at 9:22 AM, Oct 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-31 00:38:15-04

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- All charges have been dismissed against the three men accused of a deadly beating at a Middlesex County campground.

Middlesex County Commonwealth's Attorney Michael T. Hurd said the move came after the medical examiner recently revised 49-year-old Edwin Barry Hughes' cause of death from homicide to natural causes.

Hughes, who was a guest at a dance back at the Bush Park campground in May, was pronounced dead at Walter Reed Hospital in Gloucester on May 12.

Phillip ”Bubba” Harris, 57, Christopher “Rooster” Fogg,  40, and Jorge Torres, 29 were being tried for  felony murder, lynching and abduction charges.

However, because of the shift from homicide to natural causes, Hurd said the court nolle prosequi, or voluntarily dismissed the criminal charges of murder in the commission of abduction, and amended the charges of lynching to assault and battery by mob, which is a misdemeanor.

But Hurd said after the court heard arguments from both sides, including witness testimony, the court granted the defense's motion to dismiss the remaining charges.

CBS 6's Chelsea Rarrick spoke with Hughes' best friend, Gene Andrews about the dismissed charges.

He and his wife, Carol were in court for the outcome.

"I think they got away with murder," said Carol Andrews.

However, a friend of Christopher Fogg told CBS 6 he was glad the charges were dismissed. He said the three shouldn't have been charged because they didn't attack Hughes.

But Gene said the outcome will never make sense to him.

"I'll be thinking about this for a long time, there are a lot of folks here that are very angry," he and his wife said.

Investigators said previously that Harris and Fogg were security guards at the campground and Torres was working at the gate. That night, Hughes got into a fight with Fogg after he was asked to turn on the lights to his golf cart, according to investigators.

That's when an altercation broke out between Hughes and the three men.  A bystander called 911. Police said when they arrived, they discovered Hughes lying face down on the grown with a pulse and was breathing.

Police said emergency personnel transported Hughes to Walter Reed, but that he died en route to the hospital.

The state medical examiner informed the Middlesex Commonwealth’s Attorney that the death has been determined a homicide.

However, Hurd said the medical examiner produced an amended autopsy, after considering Hughes had a pulse and was breathing for approximately 29 to 32 minutes after a deputy arrived. As a result, the medical examiner's office now says the span of time is inconsistent with Hughes' death having resulted from the physical altercation.

Hurd told CBS 6 News that hospital records and the rescue squad's report were provided to the medical examiner's office a day after the incident.  He stated that information was possessed by the ME's office prior to issuing the first autopsy, but that they later changed their ruling after reviewing the data.

Friends previously told CBS 6 News that Hughes lived in the Bush Park Mobile Home Park next to the campsite for about three years. They also said he worked as an electrician for Henrico County.

Stay with and CBS 6 News for the latest developments on this story.