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NEW: Hash ‘presumed innocent’ in Scroggins murder

By: Allison Brophy Champion | Culpeper Star-Exponent
Published: August 20, 2012

Pam and Jeff Hash talking to reporters
Pam and Jeff Hash (right) wipe away tears while talking about the ordeal their son Michael Wayne Hash (left) endured. Michael Hash was in prison for 12 years after being convicted in the murder of Thelma Scroggins, of Lignum, in 1996. Hash’s case was declared “nolle prosequi” Monday morning by special prosecutor Raymond Morrogh, meaning evidence does not exist to convict him in the Scroggins’ murder.



No physical evidence – then or now – ever tied Michael Wayne Hash to the 1996 murder of Thelma Scroggins in her Lignum home. And yet the then 19-year-old Culpeper County man spent 12 years in prison for a crime he seemingly did not commit because of apparent lies and misconduct in the Culpeper County criminal justice system.

Monday morning in Culpeper County Circuit Court – in the same courtroom where a jury in 2001 found Hash guilty of murder – a special prosecutor freed the now 31-year-old.

“Absolutely wonderful,” Hash said after, asked how he felt.

In less than a minute, special prosecutor Raymond Morrogh, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney, spoke the words that undid what took Hash and his family more than a decade to untangle. Before a packed courtroom with Judge Susan Whitlock on the bench, Morrogh nolle prossed the capital murder charge against Hash, meaning it was dropped.

“We’ve interviewed upwards of 40 people and continue to seek out evidence in the case, but at this point we have insufficient evidence to try Mr. Hash or anyone on these charges so at this point … we will release Mr. Hash and continue our investigation,” said the special prosecutor.

Outside the courtroom, Morrogh confirmed Hash could potentially again face charges in the murder if enough evidence against him ever surfaced, but the special prosecutor added, “I am not suggesting that he is ever going to be tried. He is completely free, presumed innocent – a totally free individual.”

In February, Morrogh was assigned to reinvestigate the Scroggins’ murder after Senior U.S. District Court Judge James Turk overturned the murder conviction against Hash, ordering prosecutors to retry the case against him or set him free.

In his scathing 65-page memo, Turk said the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth’s Attorney Office engaged in a pattern of nondisclosure and deception in prosecuting and investigating the murder charge against Hash, arrested May 2000 in the shooting death of Scroggins, a 74-year-old church organist and retired mail carrier. Among other things, Turk said authorities relied on the testimony of witnesses known to be lying, fed witnesses information about the murder and orchestrated an elaborate transfer of Hash to a jail in Charlottesville so as to expose him to a prolific jailhouse snitch, who also lied in court.

Turk gave authorities six months to retry Hash or set him free. Hash was let out of jail in March, pending that decision, and has been living with his parents in Crozet. The habeas relief granted Hash by Turk followed several appeals denied at the local and state level, spanning many years.

Sitting next to his mother, Pam, in a courthouse conference room following Monday’s declaration of innocence, Michael Hash said the decision to nolle prosse the murder charge, although “not the best possible outcome” validated “what we said all along, and that is there’s never been any credible evidence to point to me or anyone else.”

Hash said he could not hold just one person responsible for how the case was mismanaged.

“It’s a failure on numerous people’s parts – both directly and indirectly – but it’s the actions of the Culpeper officials who initially brought the case and their actions in mishandling the case, failure to do things and doing things they shouldn’t have done, led to what happened,” he said.

At one point in time, Hash said he was angry at the Culpeper authorities for locking him up.

“I’ve gotten over the being mad part. It does no good to be mad at these people. The only thing I can ask for out of the situation is that they be held accountable for their actions,” Hash said. “They have a public of people they are supposed to serve and represent and it’s not right that this community is being misled by these people to believe a certain set of facts. When these people are telling lies it’s directly against the truth. I think the people they represent should know that.”

As for pursuing civil action against Culpeper authorities involved in the case, Hash said, “It’s not even crossed my mind at this point.”

But his attorney Matthew Bosher, partner at Hunton & Williams, said, “He’s considering all his options.”

Hash said he no idea why local authorities did what they did.

“I will say there is probably people in this county who had ulterior motives and those ulterior motives drove them to do what they did,” he said.

Hash said he “absolutely” believed corruption still existed in the Culpeper justice system.

Pam Hash said it was “politics” that put her son away for more than a decade, but that she never gave up hope so sure was she of his innocence.

“I made him a promise at the start that I was going to see him come home. That I would fix it,” Mrs. Hash said Monday. “It hurt for the longest time because parents are supposed to be able to fix everything that goes wrong and at first I couldn’t fix it, so it made me fight that much harder. I was determined. I wasn’t going to be made a liar. I made him a promise and I was going to keep it.”