Longtime coal executive Bennett “Ben” Hatfield, 59, was found dead early Monday morning at a southern West Virginia cemetery, the victim of a failed robbery attempt.
Hatfield, who was appointed to the board of directors for Foresight Energy, had most recently served as president and CEO of Patriot Coal. He stepped down last year, about a month in advance of the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
According to local media reports, Hatfield had been visiting the gravesites of his late wife and other family members at Mountain View Memory Gardens in Mingo County on Sunday, May 22, to decorate their headstones in commemoration of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, and had parked his Denali SUV nearby.
According to the Mingo County Sheriff’s Office, they believe suspects Anthony Arriaga, 20, of Delphos, Ohio, and Brandon Fitzpatrick, 18, of Louisa, Kentucky, pulled up behind Hatfield’s SUV with the intention of stealing it. Sheriff James Smith said they believe Arriaga walked up behind Hatfield and shot twice, hitting him once in the back. Hatfield then ran for cover near the riverbank and Arriaga followed, and at that time, the sheriff’s office believes Fitzpatrick drove away. Neither men stole anything from Hatfield or his vehicle.
Hatfield was reported missing by his girlfriend, and a cell phone trace led police to the cemetery near Williamson.
Arriaga was arrested Tuesday in Allen County, Ohio, and charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy. Authorities believe that he stripped his clothes and his gun — both of which have since been found — into a creek and then paid for someone to drive him to the location where he was taken into custody.
Arriaga was arraigned Thursday in Mingo County. He is being held without bond and is expected to be back in court next month.
Fitzpatrick was arrested on Wednesday in Eslmere, Kentucky, on drug charges after a traffic stop. He faces conspiracy and murder charges once he is extradited back to Mingo County.
Ricky Peterson, 20, has been charged with accessory after the fact, obstructing an officer and providing false information to an officer. He reportedly claimed to have no knowledge of the shooting when questioned by law enforcement despite Arriaga allegedly stopping at his home Monday evening to tell him of his actions. He is scheduled to be in court next week.
Prior to Hatfield’s position at Patriot, to which he was appointed in 2012, he was CEO of International Coal Group (ICG). He served in that seat at the time of the Sago mine explosion in 2006.
Hatfield also served in various management capacities for Massey Energy over several years and was a board member for the West Virginia Coal Association.