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Richmond boater Rand Hooper sentenced for crash that killed his friend

Posted at 2:55 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 16:45:40-04

NORFOLK, Va. — Rand Hooper will serve six years behind bars in connection to the 2017 boat crash that killed his friend Graham McCormick.

Hooper was sentenced to 10 years (four years suspended) on the involuntary manslaughter charge and five years (five years suspended) on the failure to render aid charge.

The Richmond man was found guilty of the charges back in January following a three-day trial in Norfolk, Virginia.

CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit has been covering this story from the very beginning.

On August 11, 2017, Hooper was piloting a boat that crashed into a bulkhead on the Rappahannock River, throwing McCormick overboard. The two were friends.

Lancaster County Sheriff Office's investigators said Hooper was drunk, and left the scene without trying to find and help his friend who died.

But it would be nearly a year before the case went before a grand jury. Hooper was indicted, but never went on trial — at least, not in Lancaster County.

In June of 2019, the day that Hooper was set to enter into a plea deal, the judge suddenly recused himself from the case, saying that he wanted to clear up a misconception that he had advised Lancaster County Commonwealth's Attorney Jan Smith that the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence.

In the weeks, months, and years that followed, CBS 6 produced more than a half dozen investigative reports on this case.

Including an in-depth probe of Hooper's criminal record, which highlighted a history of driving under the influence — and the time he drunkenly shot a friend in Richmond's Fan District.

Along the way, Smith lost re-election, and then had his law license suspended.

"He was supposed to be helping us, we trusted him. We put our faith in him for years, two years, and he took total advantage of us and tried to silence us when we wanted to voice dissent," said Gordon McCormick, Graham's brother.

Then there were pandemic delays, multiple special prosecutors and changes of venue.

In December 2020, a new grand jury heard the case and indicted Hooper on a second-degree murder charge.

But because of concerns the Lancaster jury pool would be tainted, the trial was moved to Norfolk. It took place in January of this year — nearly four and a half years after Hooper's death.

The murder charge was taken off the table, but the jury found the defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and failure to stop and render assistance in a boating crash.

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Some 1,616 days after speaking at Graham McCormick's funeral, John Randolph Hooper was escorted out of the courtroom and put in a jail cell.

"Once I saw the handcuffs go on that's when it became real," said Gordon.

Another family member said, "My life has been on hold, and for the first time I really feel like I am going to be able to move forward."

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