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Jury finds dad, son guilty of aggravated assault with axe handle

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Judge sentences both Michael Hyatt, 63, and Aaron Hyatt, 35, to prison

By Chris Sardelli

After four days of testimony in their joint trial, a father and son were each found guilty last week in the 2010 assault of a Lancaster man who was struck in the head with an axe handle. 

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Originally charged with attempted murder, a jury found Michael E. Hyatt, 63, of 668 Merle Lane, Heath Springs, and his son Aaron D. Hyatt, 35, of 6123 Lola Drive, Kershaw, guilty of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature on Jan. 10, said Sixth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Andy Cook, who prosecuted the case. 

Circuit Court Judge Brian Gibbons presided over the case and immediately handed down prison sentences to the two men, sentencing Michael Hyatt to nine years and Aaron Hyatt to four years. 

The charges stem from what started as a heated argument between Michael Hyatt and a then 59-year-old Lancaster man during the afternoon of Sept. 16, 2010. 

Cook said the violence began with a seemingly innocuous cloud of dust along the dirt road where Michael Hyatt lived. At the end of that road is a hay field the victim leased and would occasionally harvest, Cook said. 

“(The victim) would drive down the road and kick up dust. Hyatt had issues with dust rolling up into Hyatt’s window which he had open,” Cook said. “It takes about three to four days each harvest, and (the victim) would go back and forth down the road. Michael Hyatt said there was dust flying everywhere.”

The assault happened during the victim’s last day of harvesting hay from the field, Cook said.

“Aaron Hyatt came in and blocked in (the victim) as Michael Hyatt parked behind him. (The victim) told Aaron Hyatt to get out of the way,” he said. 

“The dad (Michael Hyatt) then came in behind and hit (the victim) in the head with a wooden axe handle. (The victim) then pulled a gun and shot the dad,” Cook said. “Both men then called 911 and had a stand-off. It was determined that (the victim) got hit one time in the back of his head and he shot in self-defense.”

Hyatt was flown by helicopter to Palmetto Richland Health in Columbia for treatment of a gunshot wound to the left side of his abdomen, while the victim was flown to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte for treatment of head injuries. 

Cook said the victim received nine staples in his head from the assault, though he was released from the hospital a few days later. 

“He’s OK now, though he has some hearing issues,” Cook said. 

Michael Hyatt recovered from the shooting and left the hospital within a week. From there he went directly to the sheriff’s office, where he was arrested. 

Both Michael and Aaron Hyatt were soon charged with attempted murder, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office press release. 

No charges were ever filed against the victim, as investigators determined he fired his weapon in self-defense, Cook said. 

Though the Hyatts’ bonds were initially denied, Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith set $10,000 surety bonds for both men on Oct. 21, 2010, with the condition of them appearing in court as required, according to S.C. Judicial Department records. The men have been out on bond ever since.

In October 2013, the Hyatts’ lawyers made a motion for a speedy trial. During that hearing, Circuit Court Judge Ernest Kinard ruled their trial must be held no later than Jan. 7, 2014.

As a result, the case began on Jan. 7, with Michael Hyatt represented by Lancaster County Assistant Public Defender Mark Grier and Aaron Hyatt represented by Deputy Public Defender William Frick. 

After several days of witness testimony and the presentation of evidence, the case was placed in the hands of the jury Thursday, Jan. 9.

“They could consider the principal charge of attempted murder or any lesser charge of assault, including assault and battery high and aggravated, or assault and battery first, second or third-degree,” Cook said.

The jury deliberated for a total of seven hours and returned Friday with the verdict. 

“It was my choice to try both of them at the same time and get the whole case resolved,” Cook said. “As I said during the trial, this whole thing is based on them arguing over dust. I’m glad it’s resolved.”

Both men received credit for time served for the few weeks they were in jail in 2010. Cook said both must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences because of the violent nature of the crime.

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416