Man pleads guilty in attempt to take hikers hostage, gets probation

Brad Hicks • Feb 4, 2014 at 8:43 AM

ERWIN — Judicial diversion has been granted to a Carter County man who was arrested nearly two years ago and charged after unsuccessfully attempting to take a group of hikers hostage at the Beauty Spot lookout on Unaka Mountain.

Marcus Birchfield, 42, was arrested in May 2012 and charged with five counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count each of unlawful possession of a weapon, criminal impersonation, simple possession of a schedule II drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Birchfield was indicted on these charges in October 2012 and in December, he pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated assault, which were dropped down from the original aggravated kidnapping charges. He also pleaded guilty to one count of criminal impersonation, and the drug possession and paraphernalia charges were dismissed.

Birchfield was sentenced Monday in Unicoi County Criminal Court. He was sentenced to five years of supervised probation on each count, to run concurrently. He was also granted judicial diversion, which means if the terms of the probation are served without problems, the charges can be dropped from his record.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley previously said his department received a report of a man holding several hikers hostage at the Beauty Spot lookout in early May 2012, with the report coming from one of the hikers claiming to have been taken hostage.

The caller reported a man claiming to be a game warden had approached the group of five campers with a gun drawn and ordered them to get down on their hands and knees.

As law enforcement officials ascended the mountain to get to the scene, a second call from one of the hikers came into Unicoi County 911. This call was to advise officials that the hikers, two of whom were U.S. Coast Guard officers, had removed the gun from Birchfield’s possession and were able to subdue him. Hensley said that by the time officers arrived, Birchfield had been “hogtied” with parachute rope.

Hensley said the gun found in Birchfield’s possession was fully loaded and he was found to be in possession of a bottle containing oxycodone and a sniffing straw.

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