William Ray Hagy Jr. on Tuesday denied killing a Roanoke woman in 1984, speaking not from the witness stand in his murder trial but in a 2-year-old recorded interview played by prosecutors. “I have a feeling you’re going to charge me with this,” Hagy said in the conversation with the Roanoke police detective who reopened the investigation of Cynthia Denise McCray’s death. “I did not do it.”
That his claim of innocence was brought into evidence by the prosecution was another of the unusual twists in the long-running investigation, expected to climax with a verdict today from Roanoke Circuit Court Judge William Broadhurst. The judge will decide the case without a jury.
In the two days of prosecution testimony, two theories of Hagy’s guilt emerged. One is that Hagy strangled McCray, who worked as a prostitute, after having sex with her beneath the Interstate 581 overpass near Campbell Avenue. Former state assistant medical examiner William Massello testified that McCray died of asphyxiation, and that dirt on her hands showed she likely died outdoors. Former state crime lab scientist Elizabeth Smith testified that the only DNA material found on McCray’s underwear or on vaginal swabs matched either Hagy or McCray.
A second account of McCray’s death came from Roy Alonzo Dickinson on Monday. Dickinson, an executive at a Salem-based ATM company before pleading guilty to federal fraud charges, was jailed with Hagy last year. Hagy said he had been taking speed and became enraged when McCray said she wanted to quit trading sex for marijuana, according to Dickinson. Hagy said he strangled McCray in his car, then had sex with the corpse and dumped it under the interstate. Dickinson said Hagy drew him a map showing where some of the events happened. He turned the map over to authorities. Dickinson also admitted falsifying documents in unrelated cases.
Hagy’s attorney, Gary Lumsden, seemed to take aim at Dickinson’s credibility as he cross-examined Detective Manning. Under questioning, the detective confirmed the only sample of Hagy’s handwriting submitted to an expert was a letter that Dickinson provided. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Sheri Jones quickly entered into evidence another letter from Hagy, one penned before he met Dickinson.
Hagy quietly watched his trial from the defense table, his only statement coming from the recording of his 2008 interview with Manning in Red Onion State Prison. The interview came several months before Hagy was charged in the slaying.
Defense attorney Gary Lumsden said the DNA tests show only that Hagy had sex with McCray — not that he committed any crime against her. “Given her lifestyle, it could have been there hours before, it could have been there days before,” Lumsden said in his closing argument today. The only evidence that Hagy killed McCray came from star prosecution witness Dickinson, “a smart, well-spoken manipulator and a pathological liar,” said Lumsden. Dickinson could have drawn the map himself, Lumsden said. Dickinson, who testified on Monday, said he gets nothing in return for cooperating with the prosecution.
Roanoke Circuit Court Judge William Broadhurst, who decided the case in one hour, 20 minutes without a jury, said the verdict hinged on the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness, Dickinson, a jailhouse informant who said Hagy confessed. Hagy, 49, faces life imprisonment when he is sentenced June 22.