Daily Press (Sunday)

Lawyer wants Bigsby’s statement tossed

Attorney: Father spoke about boy’s presumed death after improper promise to visit family

- By Peter Dujardin

HAMPTON — An attorney for Cory Jamar Bigsby is contending that officials at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail promised Bigsby a visit with his family if he agreed to provide the statement that’s now being used to prosecute him in his son’s disappeara­nce.

That statement must be tossed from the pending murder case as being improperly obtained, lawyer Amina Matheny-Willard asserts in a motion filed Friday.

Bigsby provided the written statement to a jail correction­al officer in the summer of 2022 while he was locked up on a series of child neglect charges involving his sons — one of whom, Codi, remains missing. Bigsby is charged with second-degree murder in the 4-year-old’s presumed death.

But regional jail officials strongly denied the allegation­s, saying “at no time were any promises of any kind made to Mr. Bigsby in exchange for a statement regarding his charges.

“We have nothing to gain by soliciting any details regarding the allegation­s against Mr.

Bigsby and would consider it an encroachme­nt on the Hampton’s Commonweal­th Attorney’s case,” jail spokeswoma­n Sharon Scott said in a statement. “It would involve us in a situation that has nothing to do with our mission.”

That mission, she said, is providing housing and a safe environmen­t for inmates.

Matheny-Willard seeks to suppress Bigsby’s Aug. 3, 2022 statement, saying wrote it only after a promise that he would be allowed to see his family for a lunchtime visit two days later.

Her motion says the regional jail’s assistant superinten­dent,

Lt. Col. William Anderson, called Matheny-Willard on July 24 of that year “to express concern about Cory Bigsby’s mental health.”

Anderson also told the lawyer he “wanted to arrange a Hardee’s Luncheon so that (Bigsby’s) family could spend some time with him,” the motion adds.

The family agreed, and the meeting went forward Aug. 5. Five of Bigsby’s family members picked out meals from Hardee’s, with jail officials ordering out and picking up the tab.

But the timing of the meeting is “curious,” Matheny-Willard’s motion asserts.

“It appears that the representa­tives of the jail told (Bigsby) that he would need to write a statement,” it contends. “The representa­tives at the jail then asked him what he wanted in exchange for a statement. Mr. Bigsby’s response was likely that he wanted to see his family.”

Bigsby wrote the statement two days before the family’s jailhouse visit. The Hardee’s luncheon was “seemingly … a tit-for-tat so that he would give his captors what they wanted,” the motion contends.

The motion asserts that Bigsby’s statement to the guard was made under duress because he was largely kept in isolation at the regional jail for months, and that he only spoke with one guard.

That guard’s body camera begins rolling just before he carried a pen and paper to Bigsby, the motion says. The jail’s guards typically don’t use body cameras, so “it is clear that the body camera was turned on in order to record the interactio­n.

“Nothing Mr. Bigsby said or wrote is reliable because the cameras only started rolling at the point that Mr. Bigsby is prepared to write out what his captors wanted him to write,” Matheny-Willard wrote.

The lawyer asked Circuit Court Judge James Hawks

to rule Bigsby’s statement inadmissib­le at trial.

Matheny-Willard declined to comment on her motion Friday, and declined to provide the Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot a copy of Bigsby’s jailhouse statement.

Hampton’s top prosecutor, Commonweal­th’s Attorney Anton Bell, also declined to comment, saying he had not had a chance to read the motion.

But the HRRJ Authority said Bigsby’s jailhouse statement to the guard was completely voluntary.

The jail said Bigsby’s case was featured on TVs seen by other inmates, and he was routinely getting comments from other inmates.

“We believed Mr. Bigsby was losing his will to thrive,” Scott wrote. “Mr Bigsby was losing weight and picking over his food. We were concerned that these actions could imply loss of hope and the will to survive.”

Anderson and the jail’s

mental health staff thought it would be a good idea for Bisby to visit with his family, “so the family could remind him of a reason to have hope.”

“I met with the family prior to their visit and explained all of these reasons to them,” Anderson said. “I even asked them to be strong and not break

down in front of him.”

Providing a meal for an inmate to meet with his family was a first at the regional jail. And when jail officials asked Bigsby what his favorite meal was, he said Hardee’s.

“So that is the reason for the meal we provided,” Anderson said.

“We pride ourselves

on observing the mental and physical health of all inmates,” Scott added, saying the regional jail has gone more than four years without a suicide.

The issue will be subject at a motions hearing Oct. 31 in Hampton Circuit Court to be decided by Hawks, a retired Portsmouth judge appointed to the case. For that hearing, Matheny-Willard has subpoenaed 11 jail officials: Anderson, Superinten­dent Col. Jeff Vergakis, and nine others.

The murder trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 6, with attorney Curtis Brown and Matheny-Willard as defense counsel.

Bigsby, 45, reported his son missing from the family’s Buckroe Beach home the morning of Jan. 31, 2022. He told police that his 4-yearold was sleeping in his bed at 2 a.m., but was nowhere to be found by 7 a.m. But Codi has not been found.

Law enforcemen­t investigat­ors have long said they’ve

had a difficult time determinin­g when — or where — the boy was last seen alive, so it was difficult to know where to focus their efforts.

But shortly after Bigsby gave his jailhouse statement, investigat­ors searched an outdoor area in Maryland, near Washington, in the summer of 2022, a law enforcemen­t source said. That didn’t turn up any new leads.

In June, a Hampton grand jury indicted Bigsby on charges of second-degree murder and concealing a dead body, in addition to the host of child neglect and abuse counts he already faced.

The indictment contends Bigsby killed Codi “on or about June 18, 2021” — or more than seven months before reporting him missing. The boy would have been 3 at the time.

 ?? ?? Matheny-Willard
 ?? ?? Cory Bigsby
Cory Bigsby
 ?? ?? Codi Bigsby
Codi Bigsby
 ?? ?? Bell
 ?? STAFF FILE ?? Officials from Hampton Roads Regional Jail deny Cory Bigsby’s statement was given in exchange for a meeting with family members.
STAFF FILE Officials from Hampton Roads Regional Jail deny Cory Bigsby’s statement was given in exchange for a meeting with family members.
 ?? STAFF ?? Various law enforcemen­t agencies gather outside the Buckroe Pointe Apartment Townhomes in 2022 after 4-year-old Codi Bigsby was reported missing.
STAFF Various law enforcemen­t agencies gather outside the Buckroe Pointe Apartment Townhomes in 2022 after 4-year-old Codi Bigsby was reported missing.

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