Thomas Birl

Thomas Christopher Birl 

On Monday morning, the man accused of murdering Richmond couple, Christopher and Gracie Hager, made his first appearance in court.

Thomas Birl, of Cadiz, appeared for his arraignment by video from the Madison County Detention Center, where he was booked on Friday after spending two days in a hospital where he underwent treatment.

The 51-year-old could be seen on the video clad in an orange jumpsuit and a mask while using a walker.

Birl has been charged with two counts of murder, arson, tampering with physical evidence, criminal mischief, and receiving stolen property.

Not guilty pleas were entered on Birl’s behalf for all the charges, and the judge appointed him a public defender.

A $5 million bond was set, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 18.

Birl cited his occupation as a musician, according to court records.

Research by The Register revealed a Thomas Christopher Birl,  which matches Birl's date of birth and likeness, has a numerous internet and Facebook pages dedicated to jazz music including pages on and SoundCloud. Some pages are under the name Heitsi-Eibib Ogun. 

According to one biography posted on, Birl was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and learned to play the piano at 12-years-old. It lists Birl as moving to Kentucky in 2010 after spending years touring as a jazz musician. 

Several photos on show Birl playing at the Berea Farmer's Market in 2016, in Georgetown, and Natasha's Bistro and Bar in Lexington. 

The most recent video on YouTube was uploaded by Birl on May 8, 2021.

Family and friends of the Hagers were not in the courtroom on Monday. Instead, the community gathered on the streets of Richmond that morning as the couple’s funeral procession drove through Main Street on its way to the Hager’s final resting place in Belfry, Ky.

According to an arrest citation, on Aug. 3, police responded to an apartment on Keystone Drive where they spoke with witnesses who told police they heard gunshots coming from the apartment's driveway.

The body of Christopher Hager was discovered in the driveway of the apartment, while Gracie Hager’s body was found in a white truck at the scene.

According to Birl’s arrest citation, witnesses said they saw Birl standing at the white truck where Gracie Hager’s body was later found and told police the man was shooting a handgun into the truck.

According to witnesses, Birl then walked over to where Christopher Hager was in the driveway and shot him in the head.

The citation notes Christopher Hager had already been shot and was screaming when Birl allegedly shot him again.

Witnesses told police Birl then went back inside the apartment and barricaded himself inside.

An arrest citation states investigators found 9-millimeter bullets inside the truck where Gracie Hager’s body was found and in the driveway.

After a four-hour standoff with Birl on Tuesday, an arrest citation states Birl intentionally set fire to the apartment and then leaped out the window where police apprehended him.

The citation notes the apartment was almost completely destroyed by the fire and estimated the damage to be more than $100,000.

When investigators searched the apartment where Birl was barricaded, a citation states they found a 9mm Glock handgun with a partially emptied magazine.

The firearm was confirmed stolen out of West Virginia.

Police said Wednesday that it isn’t yet clear if the Hagers were familiar with the suspect before their death, and no motive has been determined.

“The preliminary investigation did not indicate the victims were at the residence to serve notice of eviction,” police said in a Facebook post.

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