Fayette County jury finds drifter guilty of first-degree manslaughter in beating death

A Fayette Circuit Court jury on Thursday night found Timothy Scott Meskimen guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Edgar Hurst at a makeshift campsite last year.

The jury, which also found Meskimen guilty of tampering with physical evidence, alcohol intoxication and third-degree criminal trespass, reached its verdict shortly before 11 p.m.

The penalty for first-degree manslaughter is 10 to 20 years in prison. Evidence tampering carries a one- to five-year prison sentence. And the other charges, both misdemeanors, carry penalties of up to 12 months each. The jury's sentencing recommendations were not available at press time.

Meskimen, accused by police of deliberately beating Hurst to death, had been charged with murder.

Meskimen took the witness stand in his own defense Thursday, telling jurors that Hurst's death was an accident. Meskimen, 39, was the last witness to testify in the three-day trial.

Meskimen, whom police have described as a drifter, said he got into a fight with Hurst, 50, at a makeshift campsite along North Broadway, near Interstate 75, but didn't try to kill him.

Hurst, described as a man with an alcohol problem who lived with his mother on Northridge Drive, left home on March 27, 2010, to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned, according to court testimony. His badly beaten body was found several days later in a shallow grave at the campsite, which Meskimen shared with his girlfriend, Donna Franklin, according to court testimony.

Meskimen was arrested in early April at the Sportsman Motel on Winchester Road and initially charged in connection with an incident at the motel. Murder and tampering with physical evidence charges were added later. Franklin told police that Meskimen had killed Hurst, according to opening statements in the trial.

Meskimen and Hurst met when Meskimen was returning to the campsite after a trip to a liquor store to buy whiskey and cigarettes, defense attorneys said. Meskimen saw Hurst sitting along the interstate in the rain and invited him to the campsite. The two men did not know each other, the defense said. Prosecutors said Meskimen attacked Hurst after Meskimen got upset at how a bottle of Kentucky Gentleman bourbon was being passed around a campfire.

Defense attorneys said Meskimen killed Hurst in self-defense after Hurst made a statement "out of the blue" about killing Meskimen and raping Franklin.

Meskimen, under questioning, agreed that he lied to police several times. He said he was drunk and scared the first time he talked to police. He said he had a head injury and was confused during another interview.

Meskimen said Thursday that he didn't know until the morning after the fight that Hurst was dead. Meskimen said he tied up Hurst after knocking him unconscious. He said when he went to cut the ropes that morning, he saw that Hurst was dead.

Defense attorney Shannon Brooks-English, in her closing arguments, said Meskimen could have just left Hurst as he found him that morning, but decided to bury him and mark the grave.

The plan was to call the police at some point, she said. But Franklin beat him to it, she said.

Prosecutor Shawna Kincer, in her closing arguments, said Meskimen had no intention of calling the police; that if Hurst were killed in self-defense, Meskimen should have said that from the "get-go"; and that Meskimen didn't bury Hurst to keep animals away from the body as he'd said.

Instead of burying Hurst out of respect, she said he buried him in an area at the campsite that had been used as a toilet. "He buried him in a pile of defecation, a pile of poop," she said.

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