First-degree murder charge against Iuka man dismissed

By Sandi Pullen

Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE - A first-degree murder charge has been dismissed against an Iuka man accused in a Dec. 24,1999, shooting in Hardin County, Tenn.

"Our system of justice works," attorney Rob Laher said in a news statement. "Despite the fact that a young man was charged with a heinous crime, he has been fully cleared and his innocence firmly established."

Brad Guthrie, 21, was charged after a hunting accident left his father-in-law, Mark Biggs, dead as the result of a high-powered rifle shot.

The shooting was ruled an accident after Guthrie gave a statement to officials where he claimed he had mistaken Biggs for a deer and shot through thick brush from nearly 40 yards away.

Biggs was not wearing hunter's orange.

The autopsy, however, revealed what was believed to be gunpowder burns, or "stipling," in a circular pattern near the wound.

"Because these powder marks are only found in close-range gunshot wounds," the statement continued, "the pathologist's report indicated the fatal shot came from close range. This conflicted with Mr. Guthrie's account and he was subsequently charged with first-degree murder."

After sorting through evidence, Guthrie's attorneys found that the actual garments worn by Biggs during the shooting only revealed one small circular hole where the bullet struck.

"After the clothing revealed little evidence of gunpowder burns, the attorneys consulted with forensic pathologists both in Mississippi and South Carolina," the statement continued. "A ballistics examination was performed which indicated that Mr. Guthrie's statement was, in fact, correct."

In addition to this, no motive was found for the shooting.

Guthrie's attorneys presented their findings to the pathology team that conducted the autopsy, who deemed that the shot had come from a range consistent with that of Guthrie's original statement.

"The results of this investigation were sufficient to obtain a dismissal of the first-degree murder indictment for Guthrie and avoid a trial," the statement read.

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