Family, friends remember murdered Letcher County man on anniversary of death

By: Morgan Lentes, Tanner Hesterberg Email
By: Morgan Lentes, Tanner Hesterberg Email
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WHITESBURG, Ky (WYMT) - Update, 12/31/14

While many people celebrated the start of a new year, family and friends of a Letcher County man who was murdered remembered his life one year after he died.

Mike Hogg, 24, was stabbed to death in Whitesburg in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2014.

The loved ones Hogg left behind marked the one-year anniversary of his death with a special tribute Wednesday night.

Dozens of people who were close to Hogg gathered at his parents' house to release sky lanterns - illuminating the Letcher County sky in memory of a man they will never forget.

"It's just amazing to see everybody come out a year after this happened," friend Lance Cornett said. "He touched so many lives so deeply that they care enough to come out here and remember him."

Many of the folks in attendance went to school with Hogg and remember him as a standout athlete and even better friend.

"He was a teammate, he was a friend, he was a brother," friend Jonathan Tucker said. "I loved Mike and have a lot of memories with him."

And while nothing will take away the pain of losing Hogg, his sister, Ashley Cook, said events like this help with the grieving process.

"We have so many shoulders that we can lean on and cry on," Cook said. "All of the support the community has given us over the past year ... you cannot even fathom how great that it's been."

Two others were injured in the stabbing that left Hogg dead.

The two men police say committed the crime, James Huffman and Patrick Smith, have been indicted but have yet to go on trial. Both of them have pleaded not guilty.

UPDATED: 9:00 p.m. (1/9/14)

New details emerged in a preliminary hearing about what investigators believe happened in the hours before and after the stabbing death of Mike Hogg on the streets of Whitesburg.

State Police laid out evidence they say shows James Huffman and Patrick Smith were the aggressors in that early morning fight. However James Huffman's defense attorney Robert F. Wright sees it differently.

"It is a tragedy that this young man has lost his life, that there was a death. I am sorry for that and my client is remorseful for that. However there are two sides to every story and you know Mr. Huffman's story needs to be heard as well," said Wright.

Wright said what his client did was not a sinister act.

"I am very confident that there is more than a little evidence that these defendants were actually defending themselves," said Wright.

To call this a high profile case might be an understatement. The District Courtroom in Whitesburg was full Thursday afternoon and courtroom security had to turn some people away. Huffman tells WYMT the defense is taking all the public interest into the case under consideration as they try to determine if their clients can get a fair trial in Letcher County.

The judge denied bond for Huffman and Smith due to the fact they face capital offenses. Commonwealth's Attorney Edison Banks agreed with that decision.

"Murder by definition is a capital offense. However the penalties may be different if aggravators are present, it can become a death penalty eligible case," said Banks.

Both men waived their right to be tried separately. Their case will now head to the grand jury.

UPDATED: 6:00 p.m. (1/9/14)

To call the case against James Huffman and Patrick Smith a high profile one might be an understatement.

Court security had to turn people away Thursday afternoon because the District Court courtroom in downtown Whitesburg simply did not have enough seating.

During the hearing, Kentucky State Police laid out their case against Huffman and Smith, who are the two men arrested in connection to the stabbing death of Mike Hogg early New Year's Day.

Detectives testified three eye-witnesses have identified the men as Hogg's attackers.

In addition, KSP said a possible murder weapon was also found with the defendants following the incident.

However, defense attorneys indicated their clients might have acted out of fear for their own lives.

The judge denied bond for both Huffman and Smith. He also ruled their was probable cause to send both cases to the grand jury.
UPDATED: 6:00 p.m. (1/3/14)

James Huffman and Patrick Smith, the two men charged in the case, entered not guilty pleas Thursday.

Both are facing several charges.

A preliminary hearing for the men is set for January 9th.
UPDATED: 6:00 p.m. (1/2/14)

Late Thursday afternoon, WYMT learned additional charges were filed against a Pike County man in the Letcher County stabbing case.

Patrick Smith of Marrowbone now faces a complicity to commit murder and criminal mischief charges.

Two other men, Christopher Puckett and Stacy Phillips, were injured during the alleged assault. Phillips suffered minor injures while Puckett was taken to Holston Valley Medical Center. We were told he has since been released.
UPDATED : 9:00 p.m.

Eastern Kentucky University told us Mike Hogg was a senior at the college. He was a student in the Applied Engineering Management program.
UPDATED : 6:00 p.m.

A night of celebration ends in tragedy. A Letcher County man is dead and two others are injured following a New Years Eve fight that police said got way out of hand. Now two men are behind bars and one is facing murder charges.

Mike Hogg was a former Letcher County Central High School basketball player. He was only in his mid-20s when he was stabbed to death just steps away from Main Street in Whitesburg early Wednesday morning.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Jody Sims tells WYMT a fight broke out around the corner from a downtown bank and StreetSide Bar and Grill.

"It is so tragic and such a just a senseless act," said Sims.

Two others, David Puckett and Stacy Phillips were hurt, both from stab wounds.

Trooper Sims said KSP have not figured out a motive yet in this case, but when a stabbing is involved, it is usually safe to assume it was personal.

"It is not like with a gun or other weapons where you can create some distance, to be up and that close with someone and actually assault them in that matter, it is kind of on a different level," said Sims.

James Huffman has since been arrested on murder and assault charges. Patrick Smith was also arrested on tampering with evidence and concealing a deadly weapon charges.

"In a time when most people tend to want to be out and celebrating the incoming year, it is just a sad turn," said Smith.

Both men are being held at the Letcher County Jail.

The First Baptist Church of Whitesburg will hold a visitation for Mike Hogg this Friday from six to 10 p-m. The funeral will be held Saturday at one.

UPDATED : 1:00 p.m.

Police Officers tell us two people have been arrested in connection to the stabbing.

33 year-old James Huffman, of Pikeville, has been charged with murder and assault.

27 year-old Patrick Smith, of Lexington, was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon and tampering with evidence.

They were both taken to the Letcher County Detention Center.

We now know the names of the two injured. 23 year-old David Puckett was flown to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tennessee. There is no word on his condition.

23 year-old Stacy Phillips was taken to Whitesburg ARH and was released.

It all happened on Hayes Street in Whitesburg, after they left the Streetside Grill and Bar.

UPDATED: 11:00 a.m.

The Letcher County coroner tells WYMT 24 year-old Mike Hogg was stabbed to death last night in Whitesburg.

His cause of death is listed as multiple stab wounds.
Kentucky State Police report one person is dead and two others are injured following an overnight stabbing in Whitesburg.

Officials tell WYMT the altercation happened after 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday on Main Street near the StreetSide Bar and Grill in Whitesburg.

The names of the victims are not being released at this time.

KSP said two people were questioned in connection to the stabbing but no charges have been filed at this time.

We hope to update this story as more information becomes available.

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