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Two charges advance in deputy’s death

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

Two of four charges were certified to the grand jury Thursday against the man accused of unintentionally killing a deputy in a wreck on Route 11 in January.

Michael Dominic Morris, 26, of Dublin, waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He likewise stipulated evidence is sufficient to certify felony charges of aggravated manslaughter and reckless driving to the July grand jury.

Morris is charged in the death of Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Perry Hodge, who died at the scene of a mid-January head-on collision between the men’s pickup trucks.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith asked the court to dismiss two other charges of felony murder and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The dismissals were made under a provision that allows the charges to be reinstated at a later date, if deemed necessary.

After the hearing, Griffith said the fact Morris agreed evidence is sufficient to send the case to the grand jury “is both a step towards accountably by the defendant and is in the interest of justice.”

The grand jury will determine whether evidence is sufficient to send the case to trial.

Morris appeared before the court Thursday via video from New River Valley Regional Jail, where he will continue to be held without bond. His attorney, Rob Dean, was present in the courtroom, along with Griffith and substitute Judge Fred King from Salem. Local judges stepped aside in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest due to the victim being a deputy.

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