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Kevin Hughes

Real Name: Kevin Wayne Hughes
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Date: March 9, 1989

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Case[]

Details: Twenty-three-year-old Kevin Hughes came to Nashville, Tennessee with dreams of making it big in the business side of the city's music industry. His mother Barbara remembered that starting in grade school, he began listening to country music and buying Billboard magazines. He even made up his own charts with music rankings. In 1986, he left college to become the director of "Cash Box" Magazine's Top 100 country and western chart. As chart director, he received playlist reports each week from radio stations across the country. Based on these reports, he would rank records from 1 to 100, according to their popularity. A high position in one of these charts could be very influential to the career of a new artist.
According to record promoter Chuck Dixon, the job of chart director was a lot of work, but he felt that Kevin was the best and most fair out of all the directors he had worked with. His friend and co-worker Sharon noted that he was very kind, religious, trustworthy, and loyal. According to her, he loved his job and put in dozens of hours of overtime. Although their shift was over at 5pm, he would often be there working on the chart until 9 or 10pm.
By early 1989, Kevin had been chart director for about a year. On the night of Thursday, March 9, he was once again working late, making the final adjustments to that week's chart. That evening, his friend Sammy Sadler, an aspiring singer-songwriter, dropped by to say hello. At Kevin's suggestion, the two left the office at approximately 8:30pm, to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner. After dinner, they made an unplanned stop at Evergreen Records, the company where Sammy worked, so that he could use the phone to call his parents. The two were in there for about ten minutes. While he was using the phone, Sammy heard someone trying to open the door. Kevin went out to the front and saw a man walking away from the building. He thought the man was black, but he was not certain. Sammy then decided to end the call with his parents. The two then left the building.
As they walked to Kevin's car, Sammy looked around but did not see anyone. He went around the front of Kevin's car and sat down in the front passenger seat. As he was about to close the door, an unknown gunman appeared on the sidewalk next to the car and shot him. Kevin tried to flee down the road, but the gunman caught up to him and shot him several times. Sammy survived the brutal attack, despite a bullet that severed a major artery in his arm. Kevin was shot three times; two of the bullets entered the back of his head. He was dead when police arrived at the scene.
From the beginning, the police had difficulty with their investigation. Detective Bill Pridemore noted that they had no motive, suspects, or solid witnesses. Even though five people witnessed the shooting, no one could give a good description of the gunman. The next day, rumors began to circulate through Nashville that Kevin's murder was a professional hit. Some people in the music industry and the media speculated that he had either been mixed up in or refused to participate in a chart manipulation scheme.
On the surface, it looked like a good theory; Kevin was in a position to accept money from a promoter or an artist and move their record up in the charts. However, the police found no evidence that he was involved in that type of scheme. They also felt that his job was not important enough to be killed for. The professional hit theory also did not make sense because Sammy was there and there was no reason to involve him. There were also several other witnesses there. The gunman could have waited until Kevin was alone. Furthermore, Sammy noted that their movements that night (including dinner and their visit to Evergreen Records) were unplanned.
A second theory was that Kevin and Sammy were the tragic victims of a robbery gone wrong. There were several violent crimes in Nashville in the years preceding the shooting. However, this theory also seemed unlikely because nothing was ever spoken between the victims and the gunman. Also, the gunman chased down Kevin and killed him, making a point to make sure he was dead. Even after shooting Kevin twice in the head, the gunman never made any attempt to take any money from him or Sammy.
Another theory connected to Kevin's work was that he may have been the target of an angry manager or performer with a misguided grudge. The individual may have wanted to blame him for their song/record not being successful. Dixon brought up this theory, but also felt that it was unlikely. He does not believe that Kevin's murder was music-related.
For Sammy, the nightmare that began that night continues. Following the shooting, he underwent surgery in his right arm. He may need more to repair nerve damage caused by the gunman's bullet. Although he continues to pursue a singing career, he has been unable to play a guitar since the shooting. He hopes that someone will come forward to help solve the case.
One possible clue to the gunman's identity was a baseball cap found near Kevin's body on the night of the murder. It bears the inscription: "WORLD WAR II VETERAN AND DAMN PROUD OF IT" as well as a drawing of a combat infantryman. Police theorize that it may have fallen from the killer's coat as he leaned over Kevin and fired the fatal shots. They have been unable to locate the owner or manufacturer.
Suspects: It is not known if the man that Kevin saw near Evergeen Records was the gunman. He was described as either a black male or a white male with a ski mask. The gunman was believed to have dropped a hat that was found at the scene. It has the inscription "World War II Veteran and Damn Proud of It" with a picture of a combat infantryman.
Several theories came about surrounding Kevin's murder. One was that Kevin had been involved in or was witness to a chart manipulation scheme. However, there appeared to be no evidence that he would have been involved in this type of scheme.
Another theory was that Kevin and Sammy were the victims of a robbery gone wrong. However, this theory also does not make sense, as the assailant had shot both victims without attempting to steal anything from them. Also, the assailant chased Kevin down and executed him. An armed robber would most likely not go to this lengths to kill someone.
Yet another theory was that Kevin was the target of a misguided grudge from an angry manager or performer.
Extra Notes: The case originally aired on the January 17, 1990 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. It was also featured on Cold Case Files and Fatal Encounters.

Results: Solved. In July 2002, fifty-six-year-old Richard F. "Tony" D'Antonio, a former employee of Cash Box, was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with Kevin's murder. He had a criminal record that included drug charges, aggravated assault and aggravated burglary. Interestingly, he was the one who had given Kevin the job at Cash Box in the first place. Investigators determined that Kevin had found out that D'Antonio had been accepting money to place artists on the Cash Box music chart list. He had also learned that Chuck Dixon was behind the scheme. Kevin allegedly refused to be involved in the scheme and wanted to tell the truth. Authorities believe that Dixon had D'Antonio kill Kevin in order to keep him quiet. A witness told police that Dixon said Kevin would be "handled or gone" so that he would not be able to reveal the truth about the scheme. He also later told people that if they told the truth about it, "the same thing that happened to Kevin will happen to them". However, Dixon died in 2001, before he could be charged in the case.
Along with the Cash Box scheme, other evidence connected D'Antonio to the murder. He matched the description given by witnesses of the shooter. One witness noticed that he walked with an unusual side-to-side gait, which was similar to how D'Antonio walked at the time due to a back problem. Black cat hair found in the hat left at the scene was similar to a cat that D'Antonio owned at the time.
Also, a witness told police that he had sold a .38 pistol to D'Antonio shortly before the murder; a .38 pistol was used in the murder. The witness gave D'Antonio ammunition which was the same type that was used to kill Kevin. The witness also told police that on the day of the murder, D'Antonio had test-fired the weapon into the witness's backyard. Investigators recovered bullets from the yard; one was determined to have been fired from the same gun that killed Kevin.
The witness, along with D'Antonio's wife, were told by D'Antonio to lie about his whereabouts in order to create an alibi for him. Investigators did not believe he could have been the shooter until the witnesses came forward and told the truth.
In September 2003, D'Antonio was convicted of first-degree murder and assault with intent to commit second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. He died there in September 2014.
Sadly, Kevin's mother Barbara Ann Hooser Hughes passed away on February 14, 2020.
Fortunately, Sammy was able to recover from his injuries; he continues to make music.
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