Testimony starts Tuesday in shotgun slaying trial

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 3, 2014 

Attorneys will make their opening statements Tuesday morning in the murder trial of Lonnie Jacob Ragan, charged in the 2011 shotgun slaying of his sister-in-law during a conflict over custody of his son.

Jury selection began Monday morning, and by 4:15 p.m. a jury totaling seven men and seven women, seven white and seven black, was seated. Two of those on the panel, both black women, will serve as alternates, meaning either would substitute were one of the other 12 compelled to leave the trial.

Ragan is accused of blasting 28-year-old Holly Laurel Hearn in the chest with a shotgun fired at close range on Aug. 26, 2011, outside Hearn’s 5912 Billings Court home in Columbus.

Ragan’s estranged wife sometimes stayed with the Hearns, police said. Ragan pulled up at their home in his pickup truck and pointed a shotgun in Holly Hearn’s husband Ryan Hearn’s face, demanding to know where his son was, authorities said.

Holly Hearn then came out of the house with a .38-caliber revolver, and Ragan shot her, police said. She fell a few feet from her front door.

Ragan, then 27, also shot and wounded Ryan Hearn, who tried to take cover behind a vehicle, police said. He was hit in the leg before Ragan’s shotgun jammed, they said.

Neighbors reported hearing three shotgun blasts about 7 p.m. that Friday, police said.

The Hearns’ young son witnessed the shooting, authorities said. Ragan fled in his truck, but later surrendered to authorities in Harris County. On Sept. 2, 2011, a week after the homicide, a tipster in Waverly Hall, Ga., contacted police about weaponry from the incident. Columbus and Harris County authorities met the informant, who turned over a garbage bag containing Ragan’s shotgun, shotgun shells and three fuse-lit, homemade explosive devices, investigators said.

Police said they seized more property the next day from the home of Ragan’s father, 55-year-old Walter Ragan, who was accused of making threats after the shooting.

Walter Ragan left a threatening message on a relative’s voice mail, telling the woman, “We’re going to break even,” Detective Lance Deaton testified during a hearing in Columbus Recorder’s Court.

Walter Ragan blamed the woman for his son’s troubles, police said. “The voice-mail makes several threats to not only her but to some other people,” said Deaton, adding the woman felt her small child was in danger.

Walter Ragan also made a call to police Lt. Ronald Hastings during which he “again starts to rant and rave about the victim in the murder case and their family,” Deaton said.

Besides two counts of murder, Lonnie Ragan’s charges include aggravated assault, unlawful handling of explosives, possession of explosives by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, authorities said.

In 2004 in Dayton, Ohio, Lonnie Ragan pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison for fatally stabbing a man during a street brawl over a keg of beer stolen from a house party, according to court documents and local news reports.

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