101-year-old grandmother seeks justice for beloved grandson killed on boat: 'It was so unnecessary'

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Posted at 6:59 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 06:59:27-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Dr. Sam Graham, 100, and his wife Jane, 101, have been through a lot over their 75 years of marriage.

Through it all, their family sustained them.

"[Family is the] most important thing in the world," Jane Graham said.

Especially, over the last few years.

"You think about him every day," Sam Graham said about his grandson Graham McCormick.

"It kills us really to lose him. He was the most wonderful," Jane added.

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In a span of just 18 months, the Grahams lost two of their grandchildren.

Will McCormick, who died in February 2016 at age 25 from brain cancer, and then 31-year-old Graham McCormick.

Graham died in a boating crash on the Rappahannock River in August 2017.

"It was bad enough losing his brother Will, but he had a cancer that could not be cured," Sam said.

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Will and Graham McCormick

"But Graham was so sudden and so well, and doing so well, he was just a wonderful person," Jane said. "Nobody can imagine the pain we have been through with that, it was so unnecessary."

Graham's friend Rand Hooper was later arrested in connection to Graham's death. Investigators said Hooper was piloting a boat while drunk when it crashed in a bulkhead, throwing Graham overboard. They said Hooper then left the scene without trying to find and help his friend.

Rand Hooper
Rand Hooper outside of court in Lancaster County.

"I just can't imagine, someone has a boat wreck or something, and he doesn't hang around to find his passenger," Sam said.

Hooper was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Lancaster County's former top prosecutor, Jan Smith, negotiated a plea deal with Hooper's attorneys.

Under the deal, Hooper would plead guilty in exchange for one year in jail.

But Graham's family did not support the deal and accused Smith of incompetence.

"That was a joke. That was beyond belief," Jane said.

Smith ended up losing re-election and, in an unusual move, a judge rejected the plea deal saying the punishment did not fit the crime. That was in December 2019.

Smith's replacement, Tony Spencer, never even got to handle the case after a judge decided to appoint a third prosecutor because campaign contributions made by the McCormick family to Spencer created the "appearance of impropriety."

He made the decision despite stating the victim’s family and Spencer did nothing wrong.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, it further delayed the case.

"Most cases are not set off this far," CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said. "Rarely do all these things happen in the same case, and that is what is going on here. It has been plagued with several really unusual events."

The case was finally set to go to trial in June 2021, but prosecutors learned one of their witnesses, the medical examiner, would be out on maternity leave until mid-January 2022.

The defense did not want another pathologist to testify in her place, so the trial is now set to begin on January 18, 2022 -- more than four years after Graham died.

"You would have to think there is either some evidentiary problem that the defense didn't want to have to contend with, or they just thought the delay would be more to the defendant's benefit and didn't want to agree to a different medical examiner because they were getting the benefit of another continuance," Stone said.

"I know I don't have many more days to live. I'd just like to get it over with before I die, I'd hate to die and not know what the result was," Dr. Sam Graham said.

"We want justice, we just want justice done in the right way," Jane Graham said.

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Hooper is charged with both felony murder and aggravated involuntary manslaughter.

The trial will take place in Norfolk, not Lancaster.

A judge agreed to move it at the request of Hooper's attorneys.

Stone said moving the trial to Norfolk means it is likely the lawyers will be able to select an impartial jury, and the trial should be able to move forward without having to be continued again.

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