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Trial begins for man accused of killing friend in boating crash

Graham McCormick and Rand Hooper
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 09:41:56-05

NORFOLK, Va. -- The screams of a heartbroken mother were heard in a Norfolk courtroom Tuesday as jurors listened to Ring camera video captured at the home of a Richmond man accused of piloting his boat drunk, crashing it and leaving his friend to die.

The video was captured on August 11, 2017, the day after the boat crash when Graham McCormick's mother, Sallie Graham, showed up at Rand Hooper's parents' home in Irvington to search for her oldest son.

Prosecutors played the video on day one of the Hooper trial that got started a little after 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

King William County Commonwealth's Attorney Matt Kite made opening statements first, explaining the case to the jury and arguing why he believes they should find Hooper guilty of felony murder, aggravated manslaughter and hit and run with serious injury or death.

Kite said McCormick went out on Hooper's boat with Hooper late at night on August 10, 2017, after the pair had been drinking heavily.

He said Hooper was driving the boat when he crashed into a bulkhead, which threw McCormick out of the boat and then left without trying to find his friend.

Kite said the next morning, Hooper made two tee times for golf, went to McCormick's room and found him missing and then speculated to friends and McCormick's family that he must have fallen off the dock.

Later in the day, McCormick's body was found in the river six miles away.

A couple of days later, investigators returned to the house and found one of the Hoopers' boats damaged.

Kite said Hooper later provided a statement to investigators where he admitted that he did go out on the boat with McCormick and it crashed but he did not remember who was driving the boat.

Kite said Hooper told investigators he called out for McCormick but he did not see or hear him and he figured he was a good swimmer, so he drove the boat back home and went to bed.

Defense Attorney Craig Cooley then gave opening statements and told the jury the key to this case is that there is no physical or forensic evidence that ties Hooper to being the operator of the boat at the time of the accident.

Cooley said prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hooper was driving the boat at the time of the crash to find Hooper guilty of each of the three charges.

The jury then heard from several witnesses for the prosecution, including two people who were staying at the Hooper house the night of the crash and Graham McCormick's father, mother, and brother.

The jury is made up of 16 people, four of whom are alternates, and includes 10 women and six men.