By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Despite defense attorneys’ request to dismiss or amend the murder charge against Ernest Chris Chumbley, a Laurel District Judge upheld both the murder charge and the $200,000 cash bond for the man accused of killing his terminally ill wife last week.
A Laurel grand jury will now hear evidence surrounding the shooting death of 44-year-old Virginia Chumbley and her husband who is charged with her murder.
Chumbley turned around frequently to look back at his children and other family members during the hearing, sometimes leaning over to confer with his attorney, Paul Croley. In the meantime, his other attorney, Conrad Cessna, questioned investigators who came to the scene of the tragic incident that is being coined as “the mercy killing.”
Laurel Sheriff’s Detective Charlie Loomis testified before the court of the events leading to Ernest Chumbley’s arrest for fatally shooting his wife on Aug. 28. Loomis said Virginia Chumbley had been shot three times while lying in her bed.
Loomis testified Virginia Chumbley was lying in a “normal position” with her body straight and her head turned toward the right. She was wearing a shirt and her head was exposed above the covers of the bed when officers arrived at the scene following Ernest Chumbley’s call to 9-1-1 of the shooting.
Loomis said there were no signs of a struggle although he did say that he “really had to look over to see the third shot.”
Chumbley admitted shooting his wife of 22 years, telling police that she had asked him to perform the act and end her suffering.
“She had cancer. The way I understand it, all based on the preliminary autopsy, she had brain polyps, which is cancer, and in the liver,” Loomis testified. “It was obvious she had had chemo.”
Loomis said he saw no evidence that Hospice was involved with Virginia Chumbley’s health care nor was there any evidence that any home health agency was involved.
“Mr. Chumbley said he was her only full time caregiver and he said she had asked him more than once to kill her,” he added. “That night she told him again. He got the gun from his closet - they had two closets - and it was an Italian made gun, a .32 caliber. He said they’d watched a movie. She told him she had a doctor’s appointment in Lexington on Tuesday or Wednesday and asked him to reschedule it.
“He said she said she just wanted it over with. He told me he had “no excuses for what I did. I shot her twice.” When I asked him if they had discussed it before, he said it was not specific,” Loomis answered to Cessna’s questions regarding the events leading to the shooting.
Loomis testified that a shot glass was found on a swing in the yard of the Chumbley residence where a fire was burning in a fire pit. Inside in the home, in the bedroom beside Virginia Chumbley’s bedside table, was another empty shot glass. However, Loomis said neither a breathalyzer test or toxicology test was not performed on Ernest Chumbley after the shooting death.
“Have you found any evidence of violence such as an EPO or DVO?” Cessna questioned.
“Not yet,” Loomis answered. “We talked to the victim’s sister, but there was no witness at the scene and we talked to one neighbor who said he didn’t hear anything.”
With that testimony, Cessna then presented a motion before Laurel District Judge Wendell “Skip” Hammons to dismiss the murder charge or amend the charge to assisted suicide. He quoted Kentucky Revised Statute 216.302 which addresses the issue. That statute specifies that: 1. A person commits a Class C felony when the person knowingly by force or duress causes another person to commit or to attempt to commit suicide. 2. A person commits a Class D felony when the person, with the purpose of assisting another person to commit or to attempt to commit suicide, knowingly and intentionally either:
a. provides the physical means by which another person commits or attempts to commit suicide or
b. participates in a physical act by which another person commits or attempts to commit suicide.
“The evidence is very clear,” Cessna said. “This is what she wanted to do. There has never been any evidence of malice. He (Chumbley) has done everything in his power to care for her. This is a woman who has lost hope.”
But Assistant County Attorney Bruce Bentley countered that theory, stating that even if Virginia Chumbley wished to end her struggle, her husband had still committed a crime.
Judge Hammons denied both of Cessna’s motions, the first to uphold the murder charge and deny the motion to amend the charge to assisting in a suicide. He also denied reducing Chumbley’s bond from its current amount of $200,000 cash.