POTTSTOWN — A Pottstown man showed no emotion as he was ordered to stand trial for allegedly using an electrical cord to strangle and kill his wife as she sat in a recliner in the living room of their borough residence after an argument.
Michael Darrell Hatfield, 69, of the 300 block of North Hanover Street, was held for trial after a preliminary hearing on Thursday before District Court Judge Scott Palladino on charges of first- and third-degree murder and possessing an instrument of crime in connection with the April 8 death of his wife, Mary, 71, inside the apartment they shared.
Hatfield, wearing a red jailhouse jumpsuit, did not testify during the court proceeding. He will remain in the county jail without bail while awaiting a pretrial hearing.
Three relatives of the victim attended the hearing and wore t-shirts embossed with the victim’s photograph and the words “Always in My Heart.”
Michael D. Hatfield of #Pottstown will face trial on charges of 1st & 3rd degree murder & possessing an instrument of crime in connection with alleged fatal strangulation of his wife. Hatfield did not testify during his preliminary hearing in #MontcoPa pic.twitter.com/NkYB795VPY— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 25, 2020
Hatfield, the lawyers, witnesses and spectators had to wear face coverings, underwent temperature checks before the hearing and practiced social distancing, precautions required by court officials during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Defense lawyer Carrie Lynn Allman sought a dismissal of the first-degree murder charge, arguing prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence of a specific intent to kill, a requirement for the charge.
But Assistant District Attorney Richard Howard Bradbury Jr. argued prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to support the first-degree murder charge against Hatfield.
#MontcoPa Detective Todd Richard: “She called him a name...verbally abusive is the term he used. He became enraged.” Testimony at preliminary hearing for Michael Hatfield who is held for #trial for alleged fatal strangulation of his wife.— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 25, 2020
“The act of wrapping a cord around someone’s neck and squeezing it is more than enough to show specific intent to kill,” Bradbury argued.
Palladino determined prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to move all the charges to trial.
A conviction of first-degree murder, which is an intentional killing, can carry penalties of life imprisonment or a death sentence. A conviction of third-degree murder, which is a killing committed with malice, carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
Accused wife killer Michael Hatfield, the lawyers, witnesses & spectators had to wear face coverings, underwent temperature checks before the preliminary hearing and practiced social distancing, precautions required by #MontcoPa #Court officials during the #COVID19 outbreak.— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 25, 2020
Pottstown police responded to an apartment in the 300 block of North Hanover Street about 11:03 a.m. April 10 after Hatfield allegedly placed a 911 call and told a dispatcher that he “had an argument with his wife” and that he “hurt his wife,” according to a criminal complaint filed by Pottstown Detective Anthony N. Fischer and county Detective Todd Richard.
“When asked what type of injury his wife sustained, Hatfield replied, ‘strangulation,’” Fischer and Richard alleged in the arrest affidavit.
Hatfield allegedly told arriving officers, “I strangled her.” Officers found the victim lying face down on the living room floor with signs of decomposition, according to the criminal complaint.
Defense lawyer Carrie L. Allman sought the dismissal of the first-degree murder charge against accused wife killer Michael Hatfield, arguing prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence of a specific intent to kill, a requirement for the charge.#MontcoPa preliminary hearing— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 25, 2020
“The officers went out there and found his wife deceased,” Richard, a former Pottstown detective, testified on Thursday, adding a subsequent autopsy determined the victim’s cause of death was strangulation.
“And the manner of death?” Bradbury questioned Richard.
“Homicide,” Richard read from the autopsy report.
But #MontcoPa Prosecutor Richard Bradbury Jr. argued he presented sufficient evidence to support a first-degree murder charge against Michael Hatfield.“The act of wrapping a cord around someone’s neck and squeezing it is more than enough to show specific intent to kill."— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 25, 2020
During a subsequent interview by detectives, Hatfield allegedly stated he had an argument with his wife on Wednesday evening, April 8.
“She called him a name…verbally abusive is the term he used,” Richard testified. “He became enraged. He got an electrical cord and strangled her.”
Hatfield said he then removed an orange colored electrical extension cord from a closet and walked behind Mary Hatfield as she sat in her recliner, Fischer and Richard alleged in court papers. Hatfield allegedly told detectives he wrapped the cord around his wife’s neck and pulled it with both his hands until she stopped moving.
“He actually demonstrated how he crossed the electrical cord and squeezed it,” Richard testified.
During a search of the residence, detectives recovered an orange extension cord, a bloody towel and bedsheet in a trash can in the apartment, according to the arrest affidavit. Detectives also observed “blood smears” on the right arm rest of a recliner inside the living room, court papers indicated.
At the time of Hatfield’s arrest, District Attorney Kevin R. Steele characterized the alleged incident as a “horrible case of the worst end result of domestic violence.”
The alleged killing occurred at the height of the coronavirus outbreak while stay-at-home orders, issued by state health officials, were in effect.