Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Crime

Man accused in Valrico carjack-murder appears in court for first time after suicide attempt

A three-week hospital stay has clearly taken its toll on James Hanson, Jr.
James Hanson, Jr. sits in a wheelchair during his arraignment Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Charged in last month's Valrico bank robbery and subsequent carjacking murder of 68-year-old Mathew Korattiyil, Hanson is recovering from a jailhouse suicide attempt last month that left him hospitalized for three weeks. [POOL | Pool]
Published Sep. 10
Updated Sep. 10

TAMPA — Six weeks ago, a wiry and muscular James Hanson, Jr. sat in a courtroom joking with his public defender. He was accused of robbing a bank four days earlier, then using his bare hands and belt to strangle to death a 68-year-old retired Valrico convenience store owner.

When a bailiff wheeled Hanson into a courtroom Tuesday to face a judge for the first time since a suicide attempt last month, he was barely able to raise his hand to take the oath.

Pale and gaunt, Hanson slumped in his wheelchair, his red prison jumpsuit hanging loosely on his hunched shoulders, a white bandage affixed to his throat below a scraggly beard. He looked blankly at Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe but was able to muster a soft, raspy “yes” when Wolfe asked if he understood what was happening during the proceedings.

With the help of Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt and Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Spradley, Hanson pleaded not guilty to bank robbery and carjacking and first degree murder in the death of Mathew Korattiyil, a beloved grandfather and retired store owner.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Man arrested in Valrico carjacking, murder escaped a life sentence. But how?

Her ‘baby brother’ got a second chance. Then he was accused of carjacking and murder.

‘He came from nothing and built an American dream.’ Valrico carjacking victim Mathew Korattiyil remembered.

Prosecutors say Hanson robbed the CenterState Bank in Valrico on Aug. 6 with an Airsoft-style BB gun, carjacked Korattiyil in the parking lot and then strangled him to death and dumped his body behind the nearby Sacred Heart Knanaya Catholic Community Center. Hanson was arrested on the same day, just 35 days after his release from prison for a previous armed bank robbery conviction.

Mathew Korattiyil, 68, died on Aug. 6. The Valrico resident was a father and grandfather and left behind a legacy as a protector of his family and his community. [Courtesy of Korattiyil family]

Whether Hanson would ever again appear in court has been unclear since a detention deputy found him Aug. 13 hanging by a bed sheet from a basketball goal at the Hillsborough County Jail. Hanson was rushed to Tampa General Hospital and placed on a ventilator. At one point doctors performed a tracheostomy, inserting a breathing tube through an incision in his throat, his sister told the Tampa Bay Times last month.

But Hanson’s condition gradually improved and last Wednesday he was moved from Tampa General to the medical unit at the Falkenburg Road Jail.

Three rows of Korattiyil’s family and friends watched quietly from the gallery Tuesday as Hanson appeared from a holding area next to the courtroom for the arraignment that lasted about two-and-a-half minutes.

Hanson is also charged with battery, armed kidnapping, resisting law enforcement with violence, and violating probation. After the murder, prosecutors say, Hanson led deputies on a chase in Korattiyil’s Lexus SUV, crashed the vehicle, fled on foot and then resisted when deputies caught up to him.

Because of Hanson’s hospitalization, Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner has filed a motion seeking to stop the clock on the state’s speedy trial provision. In Florida, defendants charged with felonies have a right to trial within 175 days. A hearing on that motion is set for Sept. 26, but Hanson likely won’t be there. During Tuesday’s hearing, he waived his right to appear.

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has not yet announced whether his office will seek the death penalty in the case.

“Our office will continue to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law to achieve justice for Mr. Korattiyil and our entire community,” Warren said in a statement Tuesday in response to a query from the Times.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Megan Jaquiss, 25, faces charges of stalking, sending threatening
or harassing telephone calls, harassment by use of personal identification and
accessing a computer or electronic device without authority, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. JAMAL THALJI  |  Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    The former employee filed false complaints against her ex-boyfriend, sent hundreds of harassing texts and filled out a false job application in his name.
  2. Granville Ritchie arrives Friday in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco to stand trial in the slaying of 9-year-old Felecia Williams. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Prosecutors present their case against Granville Ritchie, accused in the 2014 rape and murder of Felecia Williams. Ritchie faces the death penalty.
  3. On Wednesday, federal investigators raided the home of St. Petersburg police Officer Matthew Enhoffer, left, shown here in 2015 receiving the Police Department's highest honor from Chief Anthony Holloway. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Officer Matthew Enhoffer has not been charged with a crime. Authorities declined to say why he’s under investigation.
  4. David Allen Boileau, 58, of Holiday, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of threatening and intimidating his Iraqi-American neighbors. He faces up to a year in prison. PASCO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    David Allen Boileau, 58, pleaded guilty in federal court after throwing screws at a car, breaking into the family’s house, and going through their mail,
  5. St. Petersburg police arrested Joshua Lorenzo, 37, after he carried a gun under his shirt to Perkins Elementary. Lorenzo is the father a student there. St. Petersburg Police Department
    A school guardian spotted him at dismissal time with what appeared to be a weapon under his clothing, St. Petersburg police said.
  6. Shelby Nealy, 26, appearing here at a hearing in New Port Richey, faces one charge of first-degree murder in Pasco and three in Pinellas. [TIMES (2018)]  |  [Times (2018)]
    His attorney may seek a stand your ground hearing in the wife’s death. Nealy faces Pinellas murder charges in the slayings of her parents and brother.
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates.
    The 15-year-old threatened to use an automatic weapon on students and referenced “blowing up” the school, police said.
  8. Tampa's Middleton High School was the scene of numerous fights Tuesday afternoon which led to the arrests of six students. TIMES FILES  |  Times files
    Extra Tampa police officers were called in to help calm the campus. Two students ended up in the hospital.
  9. Robert Lee “Bo” Benac III, now 30, is the last man sentenced in the infamous 2017 case of the boaters dragging a shark that went viral. The video shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    The 2017 video of men dragging a shark using a boat went viral. Now a second man will spend 10 days in jail because of it.
  10. Granville Ritchie, center, who's accused of murder in the 2014 strangulation death of 9-year-old Felecia Williams is present during the final day of jury selection at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa, Florida on Thursday, September 12, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The jury of nine women and six men was chosen after four days of questioning, including inquiries about their feelings on the death penalty.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement