Preliminary hearing uncovers new evidence in Birl case: Grand jury set to review evidence

Posted at 4:22 PM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 23:29:44-04

RICHMOND, Ky. (LEX 18) — Thomas Birl is now at the mercy of the Madison County grand jury. District Court judge, Earl-Ray Neal ruled there is sufficient probable cause to bind the matter over following the testimony heard during Wednesday’s preliminary hearing.

During the hearing, Richmond police detective, Jason Friend offered damning testimony under oath, that implicated Birl in the shooting deaths of Chris and Gracie Hager. The Hagers were well-known property owners in Madison County, and also maintained a home in Naples, Florida.

According to Detective Friend, the Hagers visited Birl’s girlfriend, a tenant in their Keystone Road apartment complex, to inform her of their decision to sell the unit and to make her aware that her rent could increase once new owners assume control.

“She said she became upset by that, and that the defendant came walking down the stairs, didn’t say anything, drew a firearm and started firing,” Friend testified.

Birl allegedly shot Chris multiple times. His body was found near the apartment. Gracie, according to police, was shot inside a truck. Birl is then accused of using an accelerant in an upstairs bathroom to light fire to the building. Police say they also recovered roughly 1,500 rounds of ammunition and that the gun Birl used was stolen.

Given the popularity of the couple, defense attorney Daniel Whitley has concerns about his client’s ability to receive a fair trial, should the grand jury return an indictment.

“Anytime people in the community are hurt or harmed everyone is going to want to condemn and put the person through hell. Only this we’re asking for is to be able to present whatever evidence there is in the courtroom, and that’s where justice will prevail,” Whitley said.

Whiley also stated that Mr. Birl is in good physical condition, despite needing assistance from a walking device. Birl apparently jumped from the second floor of the apartment building once it became consumed by smoke and fire.