A homeless man hacked another homeless man with a machete, stomped on his head and threw him into the Kanawha River early Sunday morning, police say.
The attack took place outside a tent on the riverbank behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Kanawha City, according to police.
Brian Thompson, 23, of Charleston, is charged with attempted murder and malicious wounding in the death of Brandon Robinson, 19. Robinson is believed to be dead, but police have not located his body.
“Assuming the victim is dead, once we find his body, which we hope to find in the very near future, charges will be upgraded,” said Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives for the Charleston Police Department.
Divers from the police department were searching for the body Sunday. An official on scene said around 3 p.m. that the search had been called off for the time being but would start again Wednesday, when temperatures are expected to be warmer.
“The weather is not on our side as far as finding the body in a body of water for numerous reasons,” Cooper told reporters during a news conference at the Charleston Police Department. “We’re still searching, but inclement weather and the temperature of the water are a factor.”
Cooper said the men were acquaintances who were both generally homeless.
According to a complaint filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court, someone called 911 saying he was attacked near Lowe’s. When officers arrived, Thompson and Alyssa Dennard told officers Robinson was left behind near the riverbank, and they believed he may have been stabbed.
After law enforcement searched the area they discovered blood in the area where Dennard and Thompson said they last saw Robinson. When officers talked to Thompson they noticed blood on his clothing. Thompson told officer that the blood was from Robinson.
During an interview with officers, Dennard told officers that she and Thompson were inside a tent off the river bank, when they heard Robinson throwing snowballs at the tent. When Thompson went outside of the tent, he began to fight with Robinson. Dennard said she tried to break up the fight, but she was unable to.
Dennard said after Thompson finished kicking and stomping the victim, Thompson pushed his body into the river.
Thompson told officers that Robinson struck him in the head with a tree branch when he exited the tent. He admitted to striking and stabbing Robinson with a machete before pushing his body into the river.
The slaying was Charleston’s first of 2017, Cooper said.
“It’s always unfortunate when we have a homicide investigation,” Cooper said. “Fortunately, the suspect is in custody. At this time last year, we had four or five homicides in a matter of a week or 10 days. So this is hopefully the last of any homicide investigations or violent crime investigations that we have for a while.”
Staff writer Ali Schmitz contributed to this report.
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