ROGERSVILLE — Friends and family of Rogersville murder victim Roger Hawkins were using social media Sunday to express their shock and disgust that the former Marine who served his country and survived two wars would be killed at home — allegedly for his pain medication.
Hawkins was described by those closest to him as a hero, a good person and a good friend.
After the murder of Hawkins was reported Saturday night, several people posted comments on his Facebook page including a family member who said, “He is God’s Soldier now. What a shame, too young to have been taken from my family. ... At least we know we have a angel fighting for us in heaven.”
A former classmate stated, “Heaven has gained another guardian angel.”
A friend posted, “Roger was a true friend to everyone he always had a smile and a kind word for everyone.”
Another friend posted, “Roger was always fun to be around, always full of life and upbeat. Such a tragedy that this would happen to a great guy and friend to everyone.”
Rogersville American Legion Post 21 Commander Raymond Hice told the Times-News on Sunday that it was a tragic ending for a disabled veteran who served in two wars.
Hice said he knows Hawkins, 52, was a former Marine and later served in the Tennessee National Guard. Hice said Hawkins completed tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, although he didn’t have Hawkins’ file handy Sunday and the exact dates weren’t available.
“I am appalled that a disabled veteran is killed because he has to take medication to relieve his pain and suffering,” Hice said. “The two thugs that attacked him ought to pay for this. Mr. Hawkins went through two wars and came home safe. He was murdered in his own home where he should have been safe.
“All veterans taking medications are at risk of being attacked by some drug addict for their medications. The American Legion Post 21 in Rogersville mourns his death as he entered The Post everlasting.”
Rogersville Police Department Chief Doug Nelson said the murder took place between 2-3 a.m. Saturday at the victim’s home at Boyd Street Apartments.
The victim wasn’t discovered until shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday by a friend who stopped by to check on him.
Nelson said a hunting knife and a hammer have been recovered. Nelson said it was a horrific murder scene “straight out of a nightmare.”
“Based on physical evidence and statements from the defendants, we know the victim put up a strong fight, but the defendants had a hammer and a big hunting knife, and he couldn’t fight them off,” Nelson said.
Following the murder, the suspects, Austin Scott Price, 18, 202 Thorpes Chapel Road, Rogersville, and Samuel Wade Hirsch, 22, 106 Riley Lane, Rogersville, allegedly took pills, cash and firearms. They allegedly sold some of Hawkins’ pain medication, and Nelson said those pills have been recovered.
They also allegedly took their bloody clothes off at Price’s uncle’s home in the apartment upstairs from Hawkins.
They later allegedly disposed of the bloody clothes and shoes in public garbage cans at businesses across Rogersville.
At 1:21 p.m. Saturday, officers from the Rogersville Police Department were called to the apartment after a friend found Hawkins’ body.
Price had recently been staying with an uncle who lives upstairs from Hawkins, and Nelson said physical evidence linked the murder scene to the uncle’s apartment
Price and Hirsch allegedly fled the murder scene in a vehicle that later broke down on Route 66 near Rogersville.
Price reportedly got a ride back to Boyd Street Apartments, but by that time police had made the connection between him and the upstairs apartment.
Upon his arrival back at the apartments, Price was detained for questioning.
Hirsch, who had stayed with the disabled vehicle, was taken into custody there.
Upon being questioned, both suspects allegedly admitted to beating and stabbing Hawkins to death for his pain medication.
Price and Hirsch allegedly knew Hawkins was disabled and had medication in the home, including painkillers.
Some firearms and cash were also allegedly taken.
After allegedly confessing to the murder, Price and Hirsch told police where their bloody clothes were stashed. All of their bloody clothes, shoes and weapons were then recovered.
Both were charged with felony first-degree murder, and as of Sunday remained held without bond in the Hawkins County jail pending arraignment Monday.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Third Judicial District Attorney General’s Office participated in the investigation.