Wayne Douglas Morelock, 44, 131 Harris Hollow Road, Rogersville, was indicted June 1 by a Hawkins County grand jury on one count of aggravated assault stemming for an attack alleged to have occurred on March 21.
Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Detective Keith Long said Morelock admitted to punching Jeffrey Adams in the head with the back of his hand five to six times that night while they were driving along Van Hill Road in the Beech Creek community.
However, police suspect that Adams was thrown from a moving vehicle due to the severity of his injuries.
Morelock was driving around 9:40 p.m. that night, and Adams was in the passenger seat. Morelock reportedly stated that both men were both highly intoxicated at the time, having consumed some “Beech Creek moonshine.”
Morelock reportedly stated that Adams was putting his hand on Morelock’s arm and laughing and wouldn’t remove his hand when told to do so.
Morelock allegedly said that after Adams refused to remove his hand after three or four requests, he struck Adams with the back of his hand five to six times.
But Morelock denies throwing Adams from the moving vehicle.
Adams was discovered at the intersection of Beech Creek Road and Van Hill Road by an occupant of a vehicle that had been traveling behind Morelock.
The driver of that vehicle saw Morelock’s taillights, and reportedly observed him pull out of the intersection “rather fast” before the witness found Adams injured on the side of the road.
“Mr. Morelock said they had been involved in a fight inside the car, and he stopped and got out, walked around the side of the car and pulled him out of the car and left him there,” Long said. “With the severity of the injuries it would stand to reason he was thrown out of a moving vehicle, but we can’t prove that 100 percent.”
Adams was in a coma for three weeks after the incident and is currently in a nursing home, where he remains unable to communicate or care for himself.
Long said the incident created an uproar in the Beech Creek community among people who wanted “instant justice” against Morelock.
“We held off on the charges because we didn’t know if Mr. Adams was actually going to survive,” Long said. “His injuries that were reported by the hospital were very severe. He had an occipital bone fracture and another bone in the back of his skull that was fractured. The way they described it to us was like a car wreck when your brain bounces around in your skull.”
An attempted murder charge was considered, but Long said the attorney general’s office felt they wouldn’t be able to prove intent, that he meant to kill Adams.
However, Long said Adams’ injuries are too severe to have been caused by the back of Morelock’s hand.
“We’re going to have a lot more medical opinion than we’ve got now,” Long said. “There was a huge uproar in the community about this case, and it started with a friend of the family. They wanted instant justice, and we weren’t prepared at that time to take any action. I explained to the (victim’s) family what was going on and the reason for the delay, and they agreed with that.”
Aggravated assault is a Class C felony punishable by 3-6 years for a standard offender, although Morelock has previous robbery and aggravated assault convictions on his record which could enhance sentencing if he is found guilty.
Morelock was arrested Wednesday, and as of Friday was being held in the Hawkins County Jail on $30,000 bond pending arraignment n Criminal Court on Aug. 31.