Matthew Hutcheson, left, leans in to confer with his court-appointed attorney David Braswell during the first day of his trial on Tuesday in the Nash County Courthouse.
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Telegram photo / Emma Tannenbaum

Matthew Hutcheson, left, leans in to confer with his court-appointed attorney David Braswell during the first day of his trial on Tuesday in the Nash County Courthouse.

Defense: Defendant panicked after finding body

By Darla Slipke

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NASHVILLE – If someone were to write a book about the case of a 29-year-old man who is accused of killing a 32-year-old Rocky Mount man in 2011, the title would be “He Panicked,” defense attorney David Braswell told jurors Tuesday.

During his opening statement, Braswell told the jury to imagine waking up one morning after a drug-induced, intoxicated, alcoholic binge, the likes of which most people could not even fathom. He told jurors to imagine walking downstairs and seeing their friend, who had been shot.

“You see a gun, and you think to yourself, ‘What happened?” Braswell said. “You don’t remember. Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s this case ... That’s what the evidence is going to show.”

Attorneys gave their opening statements Tuesday in the murder trial of Matthew Hutcheson, who is accused of killing Duwone Vondel Parker in 2011.

A man who was walking his dog spotted Parker’s body on March 2, 2011, in a wooded area near the 3600 block of Greystone Drive. Parker’s body was wrapped in plastic that was secured with Duct tape and yellow tie-down straps. The body had been burned.

Police had to work backwards to identify the body, Assistant District Attorney Alicia Slaughter told jurors during the prosecution’s opening statement.

“You will hear a lot of reference to the body, because initially there was no identification of who this individual was,” Slaughter said. “But make no mistake, Duwone Vondel Parker was a human being. He was a father. He was a son.”

Prosecutors are asking the jury to find Hutcheson guilty of first-degree murder.

After opening statements, the jury heard testimony from 14 witnesses who were called to the stand by prosecutors. Witnesses included a friend of Parker’s, law enforcement officers involved in the investigation, a medical examiner and residents who lived near Hutcheson’s home on Charleston Court.

Three people who live nearby testified that they heard two series of gunshots on the morning of February 26, 2011.

Dr. Karen Kelly, a forensic pathologist and medical examiner at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, testified that Parker died of a gunshot wound to the neck. Parts of Parker’s body had been burned, she said.

The gunshot wound was surrounded by black soot, which indicates that the gun was less than three inches from Parker’s skin, Kelly said.

She also said a toxicology report showed Parker had a blood alcohol level of 0.28.

Abraham Brown, a friend of Parker’s, testified that he last saw Parker with Hutcheson on the night of Feb. 25, 2011, at a house on Raleigh Road.

He said Parker and Hutcheson were drinking, but not a lot. Parker and Hutcheson were getting ready to leave the house when he left that night, Brown said.

Prosecutors showed jurors photos from a surveillance video taken on the morning of Feb. 26, 2011, at Walmart in Rocky Mount.

A Rocky Mount police officer testified that the video showed Hutcheson and Parker entering Walmart together, making a purchase and then leaving just before 3:30 a.m.

Police testified that the numbers of an EBT card and a credit card found in Hutcheson’s wallet were matched to receipts for purchases made at Walmart and Home Depot on Feb. 26, 2011.

The credit card was used to purchase a 25-foot by 10-foot roll of plastic at Home Depot, police said.

Several police officers testified about evidence investigators found during searches of Hutcheson’s home and truck.

Investigators found plastic sheeting on the back deck at Hutcheson’s home, police said. They found a roll of Duct tape with strips torn out of it at Hutcheson’s home and yellow tie down straps in a shed behind Hutcheson’s home, police said.

Rocky Mount police Cpl. Thomas Meadows said authorities found a handgun and a butane-style torch or lighter in Hutcheson’s truck.

They found a gun case inside Hutcheson’s room with a serial number for the firearm that was found in Hutcheson’s truck, Meadows said.

He said they found a blood spot that soaked through the underlayment of a rug in the living room of the house. They also found blood in a trash cart outside the home, Meadows said.

The trial is scheduled to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. today.