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Man charged with hiring convicted felon as bondsman

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Oct 02 2012 04:59:25 PM CDT
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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

There are new developments involving a Bristol, Tennessee bounty hunter that turned deadly back in August.

Officials told News 5 the local bonding company allegedly hired a convicted felon, and now there could be consequences.

August 10 was the last time anyone saw Joseph Scott Horne alive. Police said he was on the hunt for a fugitive in a Bristol, Tennessee trailer park for a local bonding company.

But now, Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Lesley Foglia tells News 5 that Horne was allegedly hired by Tri-City Bonding Company, specifically Ralph Hawkins, illegally. "It is the state's assertion in this case that he [Hawkins] was aware that Joseph Scott Horne was a convicted felon, and that Joseph Scott Horne was working in a capacity as a bounty hunter for Ralph Hawkins," said Foglia.

News 5 did some checking with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and got a nine page report on Joseph Scott Horne's Tennessee criminal history. Among some of the charges listed in there are aggravated assault, theft, and obtaining drugs by fraud among many other charges.

Tennessee code states no person who has been convicted of a felony shall serve as a bounty hunter.

Hawkins now faces misdemeanor charges from the Sullivan County Grand Jury, but we learned the Tri-City Bonding Company itself is also being called into question. "Our office has filed a motion to evoke Tri-City Bonding Company's privileges based on this even and also an event that happened in Kingsport," said Foglia.

We got a copy of that motion and found where it states that Tri-City bonding company agents were involved in a shooting in Kingsport in 2011, and one of the individuals involved is listed in that motion as being a convicted felon trying to find a fugitive.

We did speak with Ralph Hawkins' attorney, Wayne Culbertson. He told News 5 it's Hawkins' position that he did not hire Horne.

We're told both the hearing for Hawkins and the motion against the bonding company are scheduled for next month.