- Associated Press - Friday, December 1, 2017

CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico jurors acquitted an Illinois man who was arrested 12 years after a 2003 killing, with the jury foreman saying the testimony of a key witness wasn’t credible.

A jury in Clovis acquitted William Wilbur Hadix, 69, of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery in the shooting death of Jessie Clyde “J.C.” Tucker at his Clovis storage business.

Jurors deliberated about 90 minutes before issuing their verdict Thursday night, the Eastern New Mexico News reported .

Authorities alleged Hadix stole more than $2,500 from Tucker.

Jury foreman Jamal Williams said jurors questioned the credibility of Telia Vancleave. The Benton, Louisiana, woman testified Wednesday that Hadix, her godfather, pointed a gun at Tucker and demanded money before she heard a bang and ran away.

“I feel physically sick right now … but we just didn’t find the evidence was enough to convict him,” Williams said of Hadix.

Hadix was arrested in 2015 in Illinois’ Cumberland County where he’d moved from Clovis soon after Tucker’s death.

Court records indicate that Hadix was arrested after one of Vancleave’s brothers, Core, told police in July 2015 that Hadix had confessed to him the killing and asked him to melt the gun used in the shooting.

Cory Vancleave was on the prosecution list for the trial, but he didn’t appear because he had had “absconded from probation,” Deputy District Attorney Brian Stover said. “We believe that he is somewhere in Louisiana but his whereabouts are not known.

Telia Vancleave said she’d kept silent about what she’d seen and heard in 2003 because she was afraid of Hadix.

In his closing argument Thursday, defense attorney Gary Mitchell said Vancleave’s emotional testimony was a fantasy concocted to protect her brothers.

About a dozen of Tucker’s family members and friends attended the trial, some providing testimony.

Tucker’s daughter Jackie Davidson said she was “in shock and numb” following the verdict.

Williams, the jury foreman, said he felt bad “because the family is still in limbo, and I feel bad for the family because they still don’t have answers.”

Mitchell said Hadix was “extremely happy and thankful to the jury.”

“He was always optimistic that when a jury heard the evidence in this case they would realize he didn’t do this and he would be set free,” Mitchell said.

Hadix, who had worked various handyman jobs for Tucker, testified Thursday that he thought of Tucker as family.

Tucker’s death “tore me up pretty bad because we were close,” he said. “I never shot him.”

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