A Justice man pleaded guilty in a six-year-old cold case Monday in Wyoming County Circuit Court.
Terry Paul Browning, 41, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the slaying of Elskar Lee Hurley before Circuit Judge Warren R. McGraw.
Following lengthy plea negotiations by the state and the defense, Browning was sentenced to eight years in the custody of the West Virginia Division of Corrections, according to Wyoming County Prosecutor Mike Cochrane.
Hurley’s body was found at the R.D. Bailey Dam Overlook on June 20, 2012 with a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
Following a lengthy investigation, Browning was arrested and charged with first degree murder on June 8, 2018.
Stephanie Browning, Terry Browning’s wife, is scheduled to plea to a felony conspiracy charge in the near future, Cochrane noted.
Charges against Terry Browning’s mother, Debra Hurley, were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. She is not related to Elskar Hurley, Cochrane noted.
According to court records, Elskar Hurley reportedly burned down Browning’s house and was to collect a portion of the insurance, which was in Debra Hurley’s name.
After the insurance was paid, however, Elskar Hurley reportedly did not receive his payment and was telling others about the money he was owed for burning the house.
According to witnesses, on the day of the murder, Elskar Hurley was picked up by Terry and Stephanie Browning as he stood by a guardrail in Long Branch.
Hurley’s body was found less than 30 minutes later only a few miles from where he’d been picked up, the prosecutor said.
“On behalf of Elskar Lee Hurley’s family, I’m relieved to get this matter closed for them,” Cochrane said.
“The evidence presented and the extreme burden of proof to support a first degree murder conviction would have been extremely difficult and weighed heavily on our consideration of this plea,” Cochrane said. “Thus, the evidence dictated this plea.
“That said, this case was considered a cold case for almost six years.
“I want this to be known to the community, that we will continue working on all cases regardless of the passage of time and will convict the proper persons involved given the evidence available to us,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane lauded the hard work of the prosecutor’s staff, the West Virginia State Police, and the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department.
“Without the combined effort of the professionals in these agencies, the results of this case would not have been possible,” Cochrane emphasized.