Paperwork error sends Hickory murder suspect back before a judge

Paperwork error sends Hickory murder suspect back before a judge
(Steve Ohnesorge | WBTV)
(Steve Ohnesorge | WBTV)

A paperwork error discovered by WBTV News led to a second appearance before a District Court Judge in Newton for the suspect in a Hickory murder case.

James Thacker was originally charged with assault with a deadly weapon after a shooting Monday in Hickory left Tammy Cloninger seriously wounded. That night Cloninger died from her wounds, but the charges against Thacker were not upgraded until Tuesday night. Or so the courts believed.

When Thacker first appeared before a judge on the murder charge Wednesday morning, his provisional attorney Lisa Dubs indicated that the suspect had just minutes before found out that Cloninger had died.

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When asked after court whether Thacker had looked at the murder warrant and then realized that she had passed, Dubs said she never saw the warrant herself, only that Thacker told her he did not know about her death.

WBTV News started asking questions about if and when a murder warrant had been served on Thacker. After talking with authorities, the clerk's office and the District Attorney's Office, it turned out that no murder warrant was ever issued in the case, only a Magistrate Summons.

In effect, WBTV was told, Thacker had gone before a judge for a first appearance on a murder charge before he was ever officially charged with murder.

After learning of the error, the District Attorney's office stepped in, obtained a murder warrant and had Thacker brought before a judge again. Now officials believe the matter is over.

"It was caught, it was taken care of, and absolutely will not affect the case," said District Attorney David Learner.

As to what might have happened if the case had continued without the proper paperwork, Learner said he couldn't speculate on that. He said he didn't want "to point fingers" as to who made the mistake, but did say it was a lesson learned as they move forward.

As for Thacker, a probable cause hearing is set for next month, but officials say it is likely a Grand Jury will be asked to return an indictment before then.

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