Christopher K. Nunley, 22.
A Kingsport man charged with murder in a fatal 2009 car chase shooting has pleaded guilty to lesser manslaughter and assault offenses in exchange for 20 years in a plea deal struck as a result of anticipated defense testimony at trial that the victim could have been shot by a fellow passenger's gun.
Christopher K. Nunley, 22, 3328 Lightwood St., entered Alford, or best-interest, pleas of guilty to voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, both Class C felonies, in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence and a $2,000 fine Friday in Sullivan County Criminal Court. The plea agreement required the first-time offender to agree to serve 60 percent of his sentence -- twice the usual 30 percent -- before he'll be eligible for parole consideration. He will also receive credit for time served from the date of his Jan. 11, 2009, arrest to Friday.
Nunley was 18 when he was arrested following a deadly Jan. 11, 2009, car chase. Police say the chase ended near KFC on Fort Henry Drive when Nunley allegedly shot and killed Shawn Anders, 19, of Kingsport.
In court Friday, Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus advised the judge that the evidence the state intended to present at trial would have been that Nunley fatally shot Anders during a car chase that ensued as a result of the occupants of a Kia taking money from him in a drug transaction.
Staubus acknowledged that the defense intended to call an expert witness who would testify that the gunshot wound Anders suffered was consistent with being shot by a revolver at close range. He further noted there were other witnesses who would testify that a passenger in the Kia, other than Anders, had been in possession of a weapon that discharged during the incident.
Also charged in the incident is Joshua Frye, 21, of 1668 Randich Drive, Kingsport. It's alleged that Frye, then 18, was driving when Nunley fired a shot from a Winchester .300 rifle out the passenger window of a Ford F-150 pickup, with Anders allegedly suffering a fatal gunshot wound to the head as a result.
The court described the offense of voluntary manslaughter as the "voluntary killing" of a person by an offender who, "acted intentionally or knowingly" and whose actions were the result of being provoked into a state of passion sufficient to cause a reasonable person to act in an irrational manner.
The aggravated assault charge stems from the fear of bodily injury felt by the other occupants of the Kia when Nunley pointed the rifle at the car.
An Alford plea is a guilty plea in which the defendant maintains innocence and does not admit to alleged acts, but agrees that sufficient evidence exists for a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Nunley was originally set for a Sept. 24 first-degree murder trial. Outside the courtroom Friday, Staubus advised he had consulted with the victim's family before offering the plea agreement to Nunley.
Family members of the defendant and victim were both present for the hearing.
Frye, who is charged with facilitation of first-degree murder, is set for an Oct. 11 announcement.