Originally created 05/06/04

Suspect says he found body



Robert O. Arrington can explain his fingerprint and boot prints in Kathy Hutchens' blood inside her home: he discovered her body the night of April 3, 2001.

He just didn't tell anyone until Wednesday, when he took the witness stand in his own defense in Richmond County Superior Court, Mr. Arrington testified.

"I'm already on parole. She's already called police on me. I was scared to be where I am now," Mr. Arrington, 56, said of why he remained silent after finding the body of his girlfriend, who had kicked him out of her Georgia Road home that morning.

Her body lay decomposing, her blood splattered throughout the home, until April 13, 2001, when her sister jimmied the locks to find out why no one could reach Ms. Hutchens for more than a week.

"I didn't kill that woman," Mr. Arrington testified. "I killed Libby. That's been with me ever since. I think about it every day. That's one of the things that makes this so hard. I don't see how in the hell, how anyone who's killed once can kill again."

Mr. Arrington, as the jury learned Wednesday, admitted that he strangled Elizabeth Arrington in August 1986. Her body was found in a roadside ditch in Burke County on Aug. 21, 1986.

Mr. Arrington was allowed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter and served about five years of a 15-year prison sentence.

Mr. Arrington confessed to several people that he killed his wife, but he denied Wednesday that he confessed to a fellow jail inmate that he killed Ms. Hutchens, 46, as James Griffin, the inmate, testified this week.

Anyone with any sense keeps his mouth shut in jail, Mr. Arrington said, especially someone who had been in prison before. "How stupid can you get?"

Mr. Arrington's defense attorneys William Sussman and Jeffrey Bowman introduced court documents showing that Mr. Griffin, now serving a seven-year prison sentence for burglary and theft, has petitioned for a reduced sentence.

In rebuttal to Mr. Arrington's testimony, prosecutors called the two investigators who questioned Mr. Arrington the day Ms. Hutchens' body was discovered. Mr. Arrington didn't say anything about finding her body, they testified.

When confronted with the discovery of bloody footprints that looked like the pattern of his boots, Mr. Arrington said he might have stepped in something the night of April 3 when he stopped by the home to grab some of his clothes that were near the kitchen and back door, testified former sheriff's Investigator Bill Kitchens.

Ms. Hutchens' body was found in the living room. The body of her dog lay nearby. Both were beaten to death.

Closing arguments and legal instructions are expected today.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.