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September 4, 2013

Chumbley case to be heard by grand jury

London man said his wife asked him to shoot her

CORBIN — By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer

A grand jury will determine if a London man who shot his wife last week should be indicted.

Ernest Chris Chumbley, 48, along with his lawyers Conrad Cessna and Paul Croley, appeared in Laurel County District Judge W.L. Hammon’s courtroom Tuesday.

Chumbley was arrested and charged with murder after he shot his wife, Virginia Mae Chumbley, 44, on Wednesday, Aug. 28. In a 911 recording, Chumbley said his wife, who suffered from cancer, asked him to shoot her.

On Tuesday, after Laurel County Detective Charlie Loomis testified, Hammons denied Cessna’s request to dismiss the murder charge as well as his motion to have the charges amended to assisted suicide. Hammons also denied the defense’s request for bond reduction and ordered the matter be sent to the grand jury, which meets again on Friday, Sept. 20.

During the hearing, Cessna asked Loomis what happened when he arrived at the Chumbleys’ Greenlawn subdivision home after Ernest Chumbley reported the shooting.

 Loomis said the 911 call came in around 2:35 a.m. and the first officer arrived about 13 minutes later. Loomis got there at 3:11 a.m.  

“When I went into the bedroom, I observed the victim lying on the bed covered up about three quarters of the way. Readily I could see two gunshot wounds to the left cheek and later I discovered there was another one close to her nose. She was lying in a normal position on the bed, her body was straight and her head was turned to the side,” Loomis said.

He described the bedroom, explaining there was a table next to the bed with a small refrigerator on it. “On top of the fridge was a .32 caliber handgun with the slide locked back … no bullets were left in the magazine,” Loomis said, further explaining that one live round was also found under the covers in the bed beside Virginia Chumbley.

Cessna asked Loomis if the gun had been checked for fingerprints. Loomis said he intended to and added that the gun had been packaged for evidence to be taken to the lab.

 “From looking at the scene and using your experience as a detective, did it appear a struggle had taken place?” Cessna asked.

“No sir,” Loomis replied.

 Loomis said he interviewed Ernest Chumbley at the sheriff’s department after Ernest Chumbley’s arrest.

“I asked him to tell me what happened. He basically said he shot her two times in the face; he made that admission more than once. He said she told him to. I asked him how far away from her was he when he shot her and he showed me a distance that I estimated to be six or seven feet,” Loomis said, adding that the medical examiner had indicated shots had been fired from at least 18 inches away from the victim’s face.

“He said they had been watching a movie and he stopped it midway through. He said she had told him she was tired. He said she had a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, which I took to be on Wednesday or Thursday. The appointment was in Lexington. He said, ‘I asked her what do you mean?’ He said she told him she just wanted it over with. He said, ‘I know that is no excuse for what I did, I shot her, I think twice.’ He described getting the gun out of the box in his closet. He didn’t know the brand, said it was an Italian-made gun; I still don’t know the brand,” Loomis said.

Loomis said he asked Ernest Chumbley if the shooting was something he and his wife had discussed before that night, and Chumbley replied, “Not specific, no.”

Loomis said a shot glass and bottle of Coca Cola were found on a computer table in the bedroom and a second shot glass and bottle of Coca Cola were found on a swing in the front yard.

Cessna asked if a Breathalyzer or toxicology was performed on Chumbley. Loomis said neither were performed.

Cessna also asked Loomis if he was aware of the victim’s health and if he knew she had cancer.

“I’m not fully apprised of her medical condition, but according to the preliminary results of the autopsy, she had polyps on her brain and the cancer was in her liver, but I don’t know where else; Mr. Chumbley had also told me she had breast cancer,” Loomis answered. Cessna then asked Loomis if he was aware that Virginia Chumbley had refused chemotherapy treatments and had refused hospice care.

“All I have to go by is from talking to other family members who said she had been undergoing treatments and was interested in taking treatments,” Loomis said, adding he had spoken to her sisters.

With his closing statement, Cessna said the case should be dismissed or amended to assisted suicide, which is a class D felony.

 “Your honor, in this, the evidence is very clear, that is what Mr. Chumbley was doing. In Detective Loomis’ testimony alone, we learned that Mr. Chumbley was her sole care giver. He was the one who took care of her while he was at home. We heard that she told him this is what she wanted him to do. She was tired of the pain. There has been no evidence of malice as far as the marriage of these two are concerned. She had given up on chemo, she had refused hospice. This was a woman who had lost hope to continue to live and that’s what has brought us here today so at this time I move to dismiss as this is not a murder,” Cessna said, then he requested the amended charge.

Assistant County Attorney Bruce Bentley objected to Cessna’s motion, saying the circumstances of Virginia Chumbley’s death does not match the description of assisted suicide as outlined in state law.

“As far as her health and him being her sole care giver, that appears from testimony here to be true; however it does not go to the issue that she was committing suicide. I didn’t hear anything said that she made specific requests that she said she wanted to commit suicide, ‘I want you to shoot me,’ ‘I want you to be the one to take my life’ or ‘I want you to help me hold the gun while I shoot myself,’ so I don’t think this particular statute applies in this case. I think the case is properly charged as murder as the evidence came in today and there certainly is probable cause for that charge,” Bentley said.

 After the preliminary hearing, Virginia Chumbley’s two sisters and her mother said they don’t believe her death was an assisted suicide.

“She wanted to live, she wanted chemotherapy, she wanted all the help she could get; she did not want to die,” said Rita Smith, Virginia Chumbley’s mother.

Smith said her daughter had three children and three “beautiful grandkids” which were “everything for her to live for,” which is why she didn’t believe it was assisted suicide.

“I don’t buy assisted suicide one iota. She wanted to live. She told me ‘if anything ever happens to me, then he’s the one who done it, mom.’ He had no right, no business to take her life. It is not for anyone to take anyone else’s life. The good Lord is the only one who has any right to take anyone’s life,” Smith said.

Smith said she learned of her daughter’s death on TV.

“I was watching two of my grand babies and it flashed on the TV. . .I just want the justice system to do it’s job,” Smith said.

 Virginia Chumbley’s sisters, Sandra Hughes and Audra Nolan, said Ernest Chumbley was “mean” to his wife.

“They were married for 22 years and we tried to get her to leave him. We couldn’t even call her if Chris was home, he would’t let us talk to her,” Hughes said, adding that she had learned about her sister’s death on Facebook.

“Chris didn’t tell them she had a mother and sisters that needed to be told (of her death), too,” Hughes said.

“If it was assisted suicide, then why didn’t he shoot her once in the heart? Why three times in the face,” asked Nolan tearfully.

“I don’t hope he dies. I don’t wish him death. I just hope the justice system puts him in the Pen for 999 years and a day. I want every charge against him to stick. Let the good Lord punish him. He is up and walking while my baby, my Jenny Mae, is in the ground,” Smith said angrily.

Ernest Chumbley remains with his bail set at $200,000 cash.

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