Crime & Courts

Faced with jail, 19-year-old charged with murder cuts and runs – and he’s still missing

Ricco McHam of Charlotte was supposed to be in court Thursday afternoon, facing a possible jailing for violating his bond. Instead the 19-year-old accused murderer skipped the hearing, cut off his ankle monitor and is now on the lam.
Ricco McHam of Charlotte was supposed to be in court Thursday afternoon, facing a possible jailing for violating his bond. Instead the 19-year-old accused murderer skipped the hearing, cut off his ankle monitor and is now on the lam. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police

A Mecklenburg judge told Ricco McHam’s attorney his client appeared “out of control.”

For most of Thursday, the 19-year-old Charlotte murder defendant appeared set on proving the point.

McHam skipped a 2 p.m. court hearing to determine if he had violated his bond and should be immediately jailed.

When McHam didn’t show, a clearly exasperated Superior Court Judge Bob Bell ordered deputies to find him, arrest him and jail him – this time without a bond.

As of Friday morning, police were still looking.

McHam is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the July 4, 2016, shooting death of his best friend, Markas Vereen. Both McHam and Vereen were somehow wounded after McHam fired shots at a rival in the Grier Heights neighborhood, prosecutors said.

McHam and Vereen drove themselves to Novant Presbyterian Hospital where they crashed their car into the emergency room. It was there that Vereen died. McHam was charged with Vereen’s murder less than a week later.

In an unusual move for most murder cases, McHam was granted bond and released from jail on Feb. 25. He was ordered held under 24-hour home detention and required to wear a monitoring device.

Not that either restriction appeared to slow him down. Earlier Thursday, with McHam standing nearby, Assistant District Attorney Jodi Anderson told Bell that McHam has pushed the boundaries of home arrest ever since his release. In particular, the ankle monitoring device McHam has had to wear showed him making numerous trips to hospitals, then spending suspiciously long times lingering in hospital parking lots. There were other unauthorized trips, too, Anderson said. Eventually, even his mother called police to say her son was breaking the rules.

“We’re not trying to limit Mr. McHam’s medical care,” Anderson said. “But we believe he is a danger to the community.”

The prosecutor said she has sought a release from McHam to check his medical records to verify the treatment was legitimate. As of Thursday morning, McHam had not signed them, defense attorney Norman Butler told the judge.

Ricco (1)
Murder defendant Ricco McHam was jailed Thursday for violating his bond. The 19-year-old Charlotte man been arrested on numerous charges, including the July 4, 2016 shooting death of his best friend. Mecklenburg jail

Bell had heard enough.

He ordered McHam to sign the release immediately or be jailed on the spot. The dialogue in court picked up from there.

First Butler tried to respond. Then McHam talked over him. Bell ordered him to be quiet. McHam tried again.

“You’re getting ready to be locked up,” Bell warned the lanky defendant.

Butler repeatedly urged his client to listen and not talk.

“My bad, my bad,” McHam replied, at several points in the exchange.

Once McHam signed the releases, the judge ordered Anderson to get the missing medical records to court by 2 p.m. Butler wanted to know what was the rush.

“He’s 19 years old. He has a criminal history that leads me to think that he’s out of control,” Bell said. “If he can’t abide by the terms and conditions of the bond, I’m going to put him where he’s not going to be any danger to the community.”

How McHam got a bond to violate remains unclear. According to jail records, he’s been arrested at least 16 times on dozens of charges ranging from firearms violations, drugs, assault against women and now murder.

When Bell returned to the courtroom at the appointed hour, Butler turned and scanned the room. It was already after 2. McHam was nowhere to be seen. Butler volunteered to call him. Bell waved him off.

Anderson told the judge that after checking with various hospitals, the earliest she could have the defendant’s medical records would be Friday morning. Had McHam turned up, he would have at least one more day of freedom.

Bell ordered both sides to return to court at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

“Do I have to be back, too?” Butler asked.

“Is you client going to be here?” Bell replied.

Butler shook his head.

“I don’t know, your honor,” he said.

In the end, McHam’s absence made the hearing unnecessary.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police sent out a bulletin, asking for the public’s help in finding McHam.

At some point after he left the courthouse Thursday morning, police said, McHam had cut off his ankle monitor. He was last seen near the 4500 block of Park Road.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS