Morgantown Shooter Previously Convicted of Abduction, Use of Firearm


Published 12/03 2014 07:55PM

Updated 12/03 2014 11:53PM

WINCHESTER, Va. – Jody Hunt was accused by West Virginia State Police (WVSP) of killing four individuals in the Morgantown area on Monday, before taking his own life. However, according to court records, Hunt’s criminal history may have been a warning sign to friends and family.

It was in a nondescript building off Battaile Drive in Winchester where Hunt, 39, of Westover, W.Va., abducted his ex-girlfriend Melisa Burkett on January 14, 1999, 15 years before the Morgantown shooting deaths.

At the time, both Burkett and Hunt allegedly worked for the Lear Corporation Plant, who owned and operated the one-story, brick building where the incident occurred.

Hunt held Burkett, who was pregnant at the time of the kidnapping, at gunpoint in the men’s restroom for hours, before police finally negotiated her release.

"Apparently, [Hunt] didn't like rejection,” said Lenny Millholland, a former city sheriff in Winchester, and one of the two individuals who negotiated the standoff with Hunt. “It was about a seven-hour standoff. In order to get [Burkett] out, ironically, we traded her for a bottle of soda pop."

According to court documents, the incident at the plant (which is now owned by Trex Co. Inc.) marked the second time that month that Hunt had abducted Burkett.

"He also had issues in West Virginia, because he kidnapped her a week or two beforehand," Millholland said. "I don't remember what all happened, but I do remember having to go to West Virginia to testify as to what happened at [the Lear plant]."

For kidnapping Burkett in Virginia, Hunt was charged with abduction and use of a firearm, and sentenced to 13 years in prison. However, Hunt only had to serve three years of that sentence, alongside an additional five years of supervised probation.  

Court records show the Winchester General District Court granted a psychiatric evaluation of Hunt, where it was determined he was competent and sane enough to stand trial.

However, it was noted that Hunt suffered from suicidal thoughts and deep depression.

In a letter to Judge John Wetsel, Jr., written by Hunt on October 11, 2000 from his jail cell, he noted he had “learned [his lesson] and had been punished,” but implies jail time was not what he needed. “What my need was is something that [the Department of Corrections] does not provide, professional concelling (sic)."

In the letter, Hunt asks the judge to run his sentences in West Virginia and Virginia concurrently, so he can seek the treatment he needs. “I just would like to get on with my life. This would allow me to return to society faster and lesson the cost of the public to house me in an already overcrowded prison system."

Judge Wetsel denied Hunt’s request to run his sentences concurrently, and indicated he had “suspended a substantial portion of [Hunt’s] sentence.” Court records did not indicate any professional psychiatric treatment in concurrence or instead of Hunt’s sentencing in Virginia.

"Do you get a second bite at the apple? A lot of people do, and a lot of people do good over it,” Millholland said, when asked who he thinks should be responsible for a convicted criminal’s psychiatric needs. “Every now and then you have a bad apple, and no matter what you do, they're going to do something wrong."

According to WVSP, one of the victims in the recent Morgantown shootings, 39-year-old Sharon Berkshire, was also an ex-girlfriend of Hunt’s. According to Hunt's Facebook profile, he was deeply hurt by Berkshire, who had filed two restraining orders against him in Monongalia County. WVSP believe this was enough of a motive for Hunt to go after Berkshire.

State Police say that of the four victims Hunt killed, two men were romantically involved with Berkshire - her boyfriend at the time of the shooting, Michael Frum, 28, and Hunt's own cousin, Jody Taylor.

Despite the similarities between the cases, Millholland says warning signs usually aren’t as obvious as the appear in hindsight.

"I don't know if it could have been foreseen,” he said. “But we knew what happened that night [in January 1999], and [Burkett] is a lucky lady. The question is, did something happen from the time in 1999 until now? Apparently, something did."

According to WVSP, Hunt also killed Doug Brady, a competitive tow truck driver in the area. Police believe Hunt was upset because Brady was getting towing jobs illegally. According to the Monongalia County Commissioner, Hunt spoke about towing concerns at county meetings over the last few months leading up to the Morgantown shootings.

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