Hickman divided over guilty verdicts in Porter trial

August 5, 2008 

HICKMAN -- A guilty verdict for Howard "Doug" Porter met with mixed reviews in Hickman, the 1.3-square-mile home of about 120 families sandwiched between Waterford and Foster Dairy Farms.

"Thank you, Jesus! There's justice in the world," said a customer at Hickman Market who declined to give her name.

"Such a disgrace, such a disgrace," she said of the murder conviction.

The woman's two sons wrestled for Porter when he coached wrestling at Hughson High School. He coached numerous state wrestling champions, including one of his sons, during his career there.

"He knew wrestling," the woman conceded as she drove away.

Porter, a charismatic pastor, also was known for expanding Hickman Community Church from 10 members to hundreds.

Janice Jackson, 70, who lives around the corner from the church, said she felt sorry for everyone involved with the case.

"I am not here to judge," she said. "The jury did that today, I guess. My prayers are with the whole family and Doug, too."

Downtown Hickman, on Lake Road, is made up of a few markets and a smattering of taco trucks. Several teenagers walking down Lake said they weren't surprised by the guilty verdict.

"I always thought he was guilty," said 13-year-old Enrique Ceja. "The evidence was all there."

Some Hickman residents said the trial hadn't affected them.

Eric Smith, 40, said he'd heard about the trial on a country music radio station, but didn't follow it closely.

"We don't really trust pastors anyway," said Smith, adding that he is not a churchgoer.

For others, the investigation hit close to home. Josh Pritchett, 33, is a member of Hickman Community Church. The church, he said, is "doing well."

"For the people that know Doug, it's a sad thing," Pritchett said. "No matter what decision men made, we care for the Porters. We love them. We'll support them.

"I believe Doug's saved and knows God. Whatever circumstances he faces here on Earth, I believe he will be with the Lord one day."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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