Michael Volpe Investigates
Michael Volpe Investigates
Michael Volpe Investigates Special Report: the death of Grant Felton

Michael Volpe Investigates Special Report: the death of Grant Felton

I interview Aaron Hoard and his fiancé, Machaela Jeffries about the night Felton was killed and Aaron's arrest, trial, and conviction.
Some messages I received from Grant Felton’s family and friends as I was investigating this case.

In the early morning hours of November 3, 2019, tragedy struck.

Grant Felton, then 38, was shot and killed outside of the Shorthorns Saloon in Terra Alta, West Virginia in Preston County.

Aaron Hoard was convicted of second-degree murder in 2021 and given a forty-year sentence, but was it a fair trial and sentence?

To answer that question, I interviewed Aaron from prison along with his fiancé, Machaela Jeffries.

Before that, I released video of the killing taken by security cam. Due to the sensitive content, YouTube will not allow for embed.

After the release of the video, several of Grant’s friends and family reached out to me and demanded I remove the video.

His son reached out claiming that I did not have the courage to confront him. I asked him to speak to me, but he did not respond to that.

None of his friends and family accepted offers to do an interview or to provide any more evidence beyond their assertions which I have posted.

As the above text message noted, Hoard’s recent appeal was denied, however, the appeals court found several errors in the trial. They were deemed harmless errors.

That appeal can be found here, and it is important because the narrative of the events of November 2 and 3, 2019, are detailed in it.

Aaron also spent nearly fifteen minutes describing what happened in the podcast, and while his story and what the appeals court said happened aren’t exactly the same, they are very similar.

It’s hard for anyone to read the appeals court narrative and conclude he deserved to be found guilty of second-degree murder and be sentenced to forty years in jail.

Given his story and some of the things I learned about the victim and the trial, I think there’s no doubt Aaron was set up by a tainted judge, jury, and a political climate which required his conviction.

The Death of Grant Felton

On November 2, 2019, Aaron, Machaela, and some friends from Morgantown, West Virginia in Monongalia County decided to go out.

They wound up at Shorthorns Saloon in Preston County.

The evening was going fine until an altercation between Aaron’s group and another group caused the bouncer to get involved and kick Aaron and his group out of the bar.

Aaron told me he did nothing while the appeals court said he pushed a woman over.

Aaron said he was escorted out. Had he and his group left, Grant would still be alive.

Outside of the bar, the group realized that one was missing his hat, and another was missing her phone.

Aaron told me in the podcast that he went back inside to retrieve the hat and phone when someone approached him and demanded he leave since he had been kicked out.

Now outside, Aaron said he was confronted by a group which included Fulton.

Grant attacked him and put him in a chokehold.

The appeals court described the same events, though more sympathetically to Grant.

After that, Grant lunged into Hoard’s truck, where Machaela was seated, and dragged her out of the truck. This is what both Aaron and Machaela told me happened. The appeals court had a slightly different version of events, claiming she dove out.

Machaela provided photos of her injuries afterward.

It’s hard to believe those are injuries she sustained from diving out of her car.

At this point, Aaron told me he felt his life was in danger, and he made a fateful decision.

He retrieved his gun from his truck.

There is little difference or dispute about what happened next. He shot four shots in the air. He told me it was the disperse the crowd.

If they had dispersed, Grant would still be alive.

Instead, Grant and two other people- Mike Felton and DJ Wilt- attacked Aaron. A struggle ensued; Aaron told me he wound up on the ground. The four wrestled over the gun when the fatal shot was fired.

That is exactly what the appeals court found as well.

The wrongful conviction of Aaron Hoard

Laughably, the appeals court said that there was “overwhelming evidence of guilt.” Four guys wrestle over a gun when a fatal shot is fired.

How does this turn into second-degree murder?

The groundwork started almost immediately. Aaron and Machaela told me they fled the scene not knowing what happened. They found out the next day that Felton was dead.

By then, the local media was calling them fugitives.

The Preston County Sheriff’s Department wants people to be on the lookout for a couple, considered armed and dangerous, in connection to a shooting death that happened Sunday in Terra Alta.

According to a statement from Capt. T.N. Tichnell, 33 year old Aaron Glenn Hoard, of Morgantown, is wanted in the death of 38-year-old Grant Felton, of Terra Alta, who was shot Sunday at Shorthorns Saloon.

Officials said Hoard fled the scene and is believed to be with his girlfriend, Machaela J. Jeffries, and possibly their one-year-old child. Deputies said she is helping Hoard evade arrest in a 2018 black Dodge Ram pickup truck, with West Virginia license plate 73Y 340.

Except they weren’t fugitives. Aaron found out Grant was dead on Sunday and by Monday morning he had turned himself in.

The press calling him a fugitive and armed and dangerous likely contributed to tainting the jury.

In custody, Aaron told me that he asked to have a lawyer before agreeing to be interviewed by a detective. He never saw the detective again.

This is very important because Aaron was exercising his rights, but the prosecution tainted the jury some more when they told them in its opening statement that he refused to be interviewed.

This should have led to an immediate mistrial, except this trial didn’t have an objective judge. It had Judge Steven Shaffer.

Judge Steven Shaffer

He allowed it to go on, and the prosecution committed misconduct again when it alluded to Aaron not cooperating again during the trial.

The appeals court found that the prosecution committed misconduct, and the appeals court determined that Judge Shaffer erroneously ruled in their favor.

The prosecution committed misconduct, the judge allowed it, but the error was “harmless”, the appeals court found.

I reached out to the Preston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, but they did not respond to my email for comment.

Judge Shaffer’s biggest decision was on the issue of venue. Normally trials happen where the crime occurred: Preston County.

This was no normal case. The victim was from Preston County; the perpetrator was from Monongalia County.

Outsiders had killed one of their own; Machaela shared death threats she received.

Does it sound like Aaron was going to get a fair trial in Preston? Jury selection was equally absurd. Here’s part of the transcript.

Preston County holds approximately 35,000 people, and everyone knows everyone else.

This trial received massive local attention. Machaela told me that the first six prospective jurors said they knew too much about the case to be impartial.

She further said that the defense investigated the jury pool and found nearly all had some connection to the victim, the witnesses, or the court.

Judge Shaffer wanted it in Preston, and that’s likely because in Preston the jury pool would convict, even though there’s no evidence of second-degree murder.

That’s what happened; Judge Shaffer then sentenced Aaron to the maximum of forty years, even though he had no prior criminal record.


Find the previous three articles in the series: article one, article two, article three, and article four. Also, please contribute to the fundraiser to get more stories on Judge Shaffer and Preston County.

Michael Volpe Investigates
Michael Volpe Investigates
I give voice to the voiceless with true original reporting on topics the rest of the media is too afraid or lazy to cover.