September 9, 2013

Family disputes ‘mercy killing’

Ernest Chumbley claims terminally ill wife asked him to kill her

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Although Ernest Chris Chumbley claims he shot his terminally ill wife to death by her own request, Virginia Chumbley’s mother and sisters disagree.

The three were among several other family members present for a preliminary hearing against Ernest Chumbley on Tuesday. Chumbley is charged with the Aug. 29 shooting death of his wife who was suffering from cancer.

Rita Smith learned of her daughter’s death by seeing the news on television.

“I was watching my grandkids at home when they showed the house on TV,” Smith said. “I recognized the house, and then they said Jenny Mae had been shot and killed.”

Jenny Mae was the name that Smith called her daughter, a person she described as one with a desire to live.

“He said she asked him to kill her and I don’t believe it,” Smith said, as two of her other daughters openly sobbed with grief. “She had three children and grandbabies to live for. She wanted to live.”

Sandra Hughes learned about her sister’s death when she clicked on her Facebook page and saw a post of Ernest Chumbley’s arrest for murder.

“I got on Facebook and there it was,” she said. “That’s how I found out about it. No one called us or anything.”

Smith said although her daughter was suffering from cancer, the woman had a will to live.

“My baby loved life,” she said. “She was a fighter.”

“They said she denied having chemo,” Smith added. “She’d been having chemo. He had canceled two of her doctor appointments and said he would reschedule them. But he didn’t. He shot her.”

The shooting occurred inside the Chumbley’s bedroom, where Ernest Chumbley told police the couple had been watching a movie.

A visibly distraught Audrea Nolan questioned why her brother-in-law chose to shoot his wife in the face.

“He shot her three times,” she sobbed, pointing at her own cheek. “He shot her in the cheek, and by the eye. Why did he shoot her in the face?”

Nolan said Chumbley told police he was caring for his wife with little help.

“I told him I would quit my job and help take care of her,” she said. “He never asked any of us to help.”

Hughes said she and her husband had taken Virginia for doctor appointments, including chemo. The 44-year-old woman had battled breast cancer, having a mastectomy in 2007.

“She wouldn’t have wanted this,” Nolan said.

“God was taking her in his own way,” Smith added. “He’s the only one that has the right to take a life. He (Chumbley) thought he was God that night, and I want every charge on that man to stick. Now let the justice system take his life. He’s up walking around while my baby’s laying in the ground.”