Local News

Authorities crack 22-year-old Person County homicide

Posted February 10, 2009 11:52 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Person County authorities on Monday arrested a Virginia man in connection with a 1987 slaying.

Deputies were assisting in the investigation of a Halifax, Va., homicide case when they found links between the primary suspect there and an unsolved Person County slaying, authorities said.

"I think it's pretty incredible," Person County Sheriff Dewey Jones said.

Michael Hammock, 43, was arrested in Granville County on Monday and charged with murder in the 1987 death of Francisco Maldonado. He was being held without bond in the Person County Jail.

Maldonado was a native of Mexico who had taken on additional work at a farm off Guess Road in southern Person County to send money home to his family. He was found dead after a fire in his home, but deputies could never prove the case was a homicide, so it was treated solely as a fire investigation.

"They felt strongly that something had occurred, but they just didn't have enough information to charge (anyone with murder)," Jones said.

When Virginia investigators started looking at Hammock as a suspect in a Halifax homicide, they came to Person County for information. Witnesses told investigators about a slaying in the late 1980s that involved a fire, and Jones said he remembered working as a volunteer firefighter on the fire that killed Maldonado.

After he provided investigators with the location of the fire, evidence linking Hammock to Maldonado's death, such as injuries Maldonado suffered, began matching up, he said

"All the pieces of the puzzle started to fall together very quickly," he said.

Hammock also served less than five years of a 12-year sentence on a second-degree murder conviction in the September 1988 death of Thomas Jackson in Roxboro.

Jackson's niece, Linda Jackson Matthews, said the arrest elicited mixed emotions for her family. She said they were grateful the Person County Sheriff's Office continued to pursue a case against Hammock but wished he had been arrested in 1987.

"Who knows what the future would have brought had he gotten what he deserved the first time," Matthews said. "We hope there will be some quick resolution to this case, so he can’t hurt anyone else."

Hammock hasn't been charged in the Virginia case, authorities said.