Two arrested, charged in murder of Polk County man

Two arrested, charged in murder of Polk County man
Jimmy Dewan Fears (left) and Zachary Thomas Mersch.

POLK COUNTY, Ore. – Police arrested two men and charged them with murder in connection to the death of a 29-year-old Independence, Ore. man, according to the Polk County District Attorney on Tuesday.

The Polk County Major Crime Team is investigating the death of James Watson Hawkes IV, who was found dead and partially clothed in the woods Sunday night.

Jimmy Dewan Fears, 44, and 24-year-old Zachary Thomas Mersch were charged with aggravated murder, murder, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit the crimes, the DA said.

Both men are from Independence.

A man called the sheriff’s office after he found Hawkes’ body in the woods.

Hawkes was arrested on Nov. 21 for failing to appear in court on a possession of methamphetamine charge, Sheriff Bob Wolfe said.

Authorities in Florida and Virginia notified Hawkes’ family members of his death. An autopsy to determine how Hawkes died is scheduled for Jan. 1 in Portland.

State police are assisting with the investigation, Wolfe said.

The sheriff’s office did not release additional details.