Albemarle Jury finds Kevin Moore guilty of 2004 murder of Jesse Hicks

Justice for Jesse

By Hawes Spencer
Charlottesville Daily Progress

After 20 years of uncertainty and eight days of trial, it took jurors barely two hours Friday to convict Kevin Moore of murdering Fluvanna resident Jesse Hicks.

The jury of seven women and five men found the 39-year-old Albemarle County man guilty on all three of the counts he faced — murder, murder conspiracy and felony firearm use — and recommended a sentence of 28 years.

“I’m very excited,” Hicks’ widow, Nancy Hicks, told The Daily Progress. “I feel like we got justice for Jesse today.”

Jesse Hicks was a trucker and father of two who went missing 20 years ago after telling his wife he was going to check in on a $35,000 debt his friend Glenn Spradlin owed him. A decade later, his remains were discovered at a southern Albemarle hunt club owned by Moore’s family. That discovery led to the arrest of both Moore and his father, Glenn Spradlin. Spradlin was also charged in the case but died of cancer last year at the age of 60 before the trial could get underway.

The reputations of both deceased men took a substantial beating in court over the course of the trial. Jesse Hicks was described by several witnesses as a drug dealer whose hauling business was a cover for cocaine dealing. More ominously, the late father of the defendant was portrayed by both sides as the instigator of the 2004 crime.

“Kevin was 19 years old when this occurred and apparently had great love, respect and devotion to his dad,” co-counsel for the defense Blair Howard told the jury. “I simply ask you to put things in context with where he was in his life and his relationship with his dad, who obviously put him up to this.”

Howard was the lawyer credited in 1994 with securing a not guilty verdict for Lorena Bobbitt, the Manassas woman charged with malicious wounding for cutting off her husband’s penis with a kitchen knife. In Albemarle, however, he came up against Philip Giles, the now-retired lead detective in the Hicks murder case.

“I’m grateful for detective Phil Giles,” Melissa Proffitt, one of Hicks two daughters, told The Progress. “He’s really the brainchild for all this.”

The 2014 discovery of a partial skeleton on a tract of land owned and operated by Spradlin’s hunt club, the Woodridge Sportsmen’s Association, provided some clues but not enough to satisfy then-detective Giles.

Giles devised a way to secure a confession from Spradlin’s son. He sent a 33-time convicted felon to venture into the southern Albemarle community of Woodridge to dangle business ventures — an RV park, even a hit job — in front of Moore.

Like Moore’s father, the informant didn’t live to see this trial. Nearly three years ago, at the age of 68, Edward Fitzgerald, known as “Harley” for his lifelong love of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, died.

“You either loved him or hated him, and he didn’t really care one way or another,” went one line in his 2021 obituary. “He lived most of his life in Greenville and Amherst when he wasn’t in prison.”

But over the course of several weeks in 2018, Fitzgerald crossed over to help the Albemarle police. In a wired-up Chevy van, he recorded hours of video evidence, some which was played for jurors over the course of Moore’s trial.

At various points, Moore could be heard telling Fitzgerald how he ambushed, shotgunned, dragged and buried a man who sounded a lot like Hicks.

He said he drove the victim’s pickup truck halfway to Lynchburg and wore gloves to avoid leaving evidence before his father gave him a ride home.

Hicks’ widow testified to having called Spradlin around 2 a.m. the night her husband disappeared and feeling troubled that Spradlin sounded like he was inside a moving vehicle at that hour.

In a post-arrest interview played for jurors, Moore claims his words were just bluster — “spitballing,” he calls it. But there were small details that seemed to ring true, including his admission that the night of the murder was a bright night, which astronomical records confirmed, and that he chose to bury the body in a “mud hole,” something that seemed plentiful on the hunt club’s notoriously soggy property along the Hardware River.

“Did Kevin Moore just come up with this, or is he telling the truth?” lead prosecutor Richard Farley asked the jury.

Defense co-counsel Brooke Howard, Blair Howard’s son, blasted the case as “entirely circumstantial evidence.”

“Not only do we not have any evidence of cause of death, but there’s no indication of trauma of any kind whatsoever,” said the younger Howard.

One thing jurors got to hear only after they rendered their guilty verdicts was Moore’s history of violence. In 2017, about 20 months before his murder arrest, he was charged with abducting and assaulting a family member.

Moore was convicted and sentenced to 21.5 months.

In jail, another more sympathetic Moore was presented to the jury. Jurors learned that Moore has helped stave off assaults and recently rescued an Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail guard when an inmate put her in a chokehold.

“Mr. Moore pulled the inmate off of me,” Lt. Katelyn Bergey testified via video from the jailhouse.

Moore did not testify. As the verdicts were read Friday afternoon, Moore did as has done throughout the trial: He sat up straight, expressing no emotion.

This story has been corrected to say Jenny Reeves was Kevin Moore’s wife at the time she wrote her complaint.

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