WILLIAMSON — Williamson Police Chief Grady Dotson had faith in Shane Runyon and Logan Preece.
“I felt strongly that with the information we had and the training those guys have and the effort they put in that we’d come up with something, and we did,” he said.
The Williamson Fire Department’s dive team used their water rescue training to locate what could be a murder weapon that was used in a case in May 2020.
Dotson believes that the hammer that was pulled from Laurel Lake last week is the one that was used to kill John Jackson in his Elm Street apartment.
Already indicted and awaiting trial are James Church, Charles Jarvis and Terry Jarvis.
Runyon and Preece joined in the dive on their day off.
“They didn’t get anything for doing this,” Dotson said. “They wanted to help.”
Last year, Dotson said Runyon recovered a gun that was used in a separate robbery case.
After seeing two of their fellow firefighters hurt battling the blaze that police say was set to cover up the killing, Runyon and Preece wanted to assist in the Jackson case.
Chief Dotson is a trained diver as well but said when it is a case he is working, he would not deploy to the water.
“I wouldn’t want to personally try to recover something for a case we are working so that there would be no conflict of interest there,” he said.
Through information gathered via interviews and interrogations, Dotson said he could justify deploying the divers.
“We felt that because of some of the factual indicators in the statements we took in the interview that there was some truth, and we felt like it was worth going to search.”
The hammer, which has a distinct yellowish handle, was sent to the West Virginia State Police crime lab for testing.
“We received a description of what it looked like, and we found what we were looking for,” Dotson said.
The chief added that the murky waters of rivers and lakes make a search more difficult and that factors like recent rainfall contribute to visibility underwater.
“Your rivers are more shallow and depending on how much rain you’ve had are definitely factors, and we waited for the water to go down, and we knew a general location,” Dotson added. “This being a lake is more muddy, and the water is darker. We knew what the weapon allegedly looked like. We had to figure out if we were the ones who tossed it, how far could we toss it?”
He added, “We can’t say that luck doesn’t play a factor in recovering anything, because it does.”
Runyon and Preece were about to call it a day after hours of searching when the hammer was located.
“We feel we have a strong case,” Dotson said.
The chief said additional funding for law enforcement to deploy their own dive teams would produce positive results.
“We’ve recovered bodies and pulled a lot from the (Tug) river,” he said. “We’ve had evidence both collected and lost in that river. Any time you have tools and training, it just increases your chances of producing further potential evidence. I’d like to have all of my guys trained, too, for any one of them who’d want to take it. Just earlier today, we worked on active school shooter training. Lord forbid that actually ever happen or become a reality, but when you have the training, you can do everything you can to prepare and be ready for that situation. Today, I just want to thank the fire department for what they did to help out. I can’t thank them enough for their work.”