Court docs: Man found dead in Polk Co. was drug informant

POLK COUNTY, Ore. - A 29-year-old Independence, Ore. man who was found dead and nearly naked in the woods near a cemetery last month was an informant for the Polk County Interagency Narcotics Team, court documents said.

The body of James Watson Hawkes IV was found on Dec. 29. Deputies said Hawkes was only wearing boxers. He had contusions on his face and red marks around both of his wrists and ankles, court documents said.

Hawkes was arrested on Nov. 21 for failing to appear in court on a possession of methamphetamine charge, Sheriff Bob Wolfe said. According to court documents, Hawkes was a confidential informant who recently participated in a controlled drug deal from Jimmy Fears.

Fears, 44, and Zachary Mersch, 24, were arrested and charged with Hawkes' murder on Tuesday.

The two men told investigators that they learned Hawkes was an informant and met him at a Monmouth, Ore. motel on Dec. 11 to confront him about being a "snitch," court documents said.

James Hawkes

The men gave detectives similar accounts of what happened, but each said the other man was more involved in the crime. Court documents said each man said the other man punched Hawkes "about 50 times" and used a stun gun on him. Fears and Mersch tied Hawkes' hands and feet, put a rag in his mouth and put tape around his head to keep it in place, documents said.

Mersch told detectives that Hawkes died in the motel room, but Fears said he was still alive while the two wrapped him in a blanket and carried him to his truck, court documents said.

According to court documents, after they discovered that Hawkes was dead, Fears and Mersch drove around the county trying to find a place to dump the body. They left Hawkes in the woods near the Pedee Cemetery, documents said, before getting rid of his clothes, the tape and the binding materials back at the motel.

Fears and Mersch were charged with aggravated murder, murder, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit the crimes, the District Attorney said.