published Thursday, February 17th, 2011

17-year-old girl present when fatal shot fired in Jasper, Tenn.

JASPER, Tenn. -- A 17-year-old girl was sitting between the shooter and victim when the fatal shot was fired into Kenneth Hudson's head last week.

The girl, one of two witnesses who testified Wednesday in a preliminary hearing on the Feb. 7 slaying, said she was sitting between Hudson and shooting suspect Jarrod Pickett, 26, in Hudson's pickup truck.

After Hudson was shot, his body was shoved out of the truck onto the side of Old Shellmound Road in Marion County. The body was found by a mail carrier.

Pickett is charged with criminal homicide in the 50-year-old Hudson's death and remains in custody on a $150,000 bond set Wednesday by General Sessions Judge Mark Raines.

The teen, who has not been charged in the incident, said she met Pickett in late January but did not characterize it as a romantic relationship.

She testified through tears that she spent Super Bowl Sunday at a friend's home near the Little Sequatchie River, and left there with Pickett before daylight the following morning, headed for Hudson's home on Francis Spring Road.

She and Pickett stayed at Hudson's home about two hours, she said, while she washed a load of hers and Pickett's clothes. While it was still early, they left Hudson's home in Hudson's 1994 Chevrolet truck with Hudson driving, she testified. Both men were armed, she said.

Pickett "had a gun but he didn't have no bullets," she testified, growing more upset with each question from Assistant District Attorney Dave McGovern.

Pickett and Hudson were arguing about Hudson refusing to take her and Pickett to the auto repair shop owned by Pickett's father in Jasper, she said. The trio turned onto Old Shellmound Road, where they stopped the truck as the argument escalated, she testified.

"Kenneth went for his pocket and Jarrod took his gun away from him," the teen said haltingly as her face crumpled with emotion. "Jarrod shot him."

Pickett shoved Hudson out of the truck, got into the driver's seat and drove straight to the Chattanooga home of a man she knew only as "Blood," she said. They still had Hudson's truck and cell phone and both guns, she said.

The pair borrowed clothes from "Blood," then drove the truck to Hixson, where Pickett sold the CD player out of it for gas money and attempted to sell the guns, she testified. She said Pickett then called his mother, who met the pair in her own car in Lookout Valley.

The second witness, Pickett's mother, Sherry, said she first heard from her son about 11:30 a.m. CST on the day of the shooting.

She testified that her son told her "something had happened," so she met him and the teen at a Lookout Valley restaurant.

Sherry Pickett testified that she and the teen got into her car and her son got into a black pickup and headed for Dade County, Ga.

The truck was left near a church cemetery and she picked up her son, who now was on foot. They then drove to the auto shop in Jasper, she testified.

She said her son had a gun with him in the car.

Sherry Pickett testified that she took the teen to her home, then drove her son back to Lookout Valley by way of old U.S. Highway 41. About halfway there, her son tossed the gun out of the car, she said, and they continued on to Lookout Valley where they got a motel room for the night.

The following morning, Sherry Pickett and her son parted ways until he called her later from a Motel 6 in Chattanooga, she testified.

"He asked me to come to where he was," she said.

She said she spent the night at the Chattanooga motel, but as she returned to Jasper the following morning, authorities took her into custody and returned her to the motel, where her son was arrested soon afterward.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume Friday.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at 423-757-6569 or bbenton@timesfreepress.com.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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