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Aaron Hoard sentenced to maximum for 2019 murder

KINGWOOD — There was hardly a reaction from Aaron Hoard, 35, his family and friends, or the family and friends of Grant Felton, 38, the man he murdered, as Hoard was sentenced to serve the maximum  possible sentence of 40 years in prison.

Hoard shot and killed Felton outside of Shorthorns Saloon in Terra Alta on Nov. 3. 2019. He was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury after a trial in May.

Before delivering the sentence, Circuit Judge Steven Shaffer said, “As I watched that video many, many, times, as I saw that truck pull up in front of Shorthorns, Yeah, the light was on in the truck and I saw Machaela Jeffries trying to drag you and keep you in that truck by your arm. You had to get out of the truck. That was one intentional act. I then listened to the testimony. I listened to your testimony very carefully. I heard you tell about unzipping the bag. I heard you tell about reaching in and getting the gun and that you did not carry a bullet in the chamber and that you had to chamber a bullet. That takes two hands. I don’t hardly know of anyone that can chamber a bullet in a 9mm with one hand. And then you stood up. And yes you did fire four shots in the air.”

At the Tuesday hearing, seven of Felton’s family members spoke about the massive loss they suffered when Felton was killed. 

Felton’s mother, Patti, said “feeling and feeling the loss of my son is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.” She doesn’t know much about guns, but she knows Hoard had to pull the trigger each time and could have stopped after shooting him the first time. Firing three more shots, “that’s unforgivable by anybody.”

Heidi Felton said her husband was the love of her life and a shining example of what a man should be. He was the family’s sole provider while she was a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled their youngest child. She said every night when she closes her eyes she vividly sees what Hoard did while she had to watch helplessly. And there are no more fist bumps, forehead kisses, or hugs to bring her comfort.

Aaron Hoard, who has been in Tygart Valley Regional Jail since Nov. 4, 2019, addressed the court. 

“I’ve been accused and convicted of murdering Grant Felton Jr. in the second degree. That’s really hard to say, especially considering I know I didn’t murder Grant Felton Jr.,” he began. 

Hoard said Felton lost his life “at the end of a very unfortunate chain of events.” He said he was sorry to Felton’s family and the community for their loss and that he prayed for the family every day. 

Learning about Felton during the trial, Hoard realized he was loved by many people, which means he must have had a big heart because you “can’t receive all that love without sharing it first.” If the two had met under different circumstances maybe they would have been friends, Hoard said.

Multiple friends of Hoard spoke about what a hardworking person and loving family man he is. 

Chris Morrow, a friend since elementary school, said Hoard really stepped up when he became a father at 17 and became a great dad.

Hoard said he was regretful he would miss his 17-year-old daughter’s high school graduation because she attended his at six months old. 

Harley White, a boxing instructor at Mountaineer Boxing Academy, said Hoard literally saved his life by asking him “what’re you doing?” That simple question really got 22-year-old White, who was a “full on addict,” thinking about his life, he said. 

Hoard opened his home so White could work out while he was quitting drugs cold turkey.

Defense attorney Belinda Haynie asked Hoard be sentenced to 10 years in prison, the minimum, and to allow him to serve the time on home confinement. She said punishment was the only reason to sentence him because Hoard was a productive member of society and didn’t need rehabilitation. His criminal history was minor.

However, looking at the facts of the case, which include Hoard’s neck being grabbed by Felton and that there was a struggle for the gun when the shots went off, the maximum sentence was not appropriate.

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