After a trial of less than two days, Larry Leon “Snake” Fields of Dante was convicted in Wise County Circuit Court of the felony murder of Mark Anthony Ward, 48, Castlewood, as well as reckless handling of a firearm and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
On March 31 of last year, Fields and Ward were at work together at Deer Builders, located behind the Dominion Virginia Power Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center in St. Paul. The incident in the parking lot was captured on security camera footage.
Evidence showed that Ward and Fields had been engaged in what has been described as horseplay. During their exchange, Fields got a loaded .22 revolver from his truck, pointed it at Ward and pulled the trigger. Fields claimed the shooting was an accident but admitted he waived the firearm around and pulled the trigger to scare Ward.
Ward was shot in the forehead and died two days later at Bristol Regional Medical Center. Co-workers told authorities Fields and Ward had painted each other's feet and were "doing things to each other all day," adding it was not unusual for the pair "to be horsing around and irritating each other."
As workers were wrapping up for the day, Ward reportedly told Fields he was going to pour gasoline on Fields' truck, and Fields told Ward if he did, he would shoot him. Ward went to the passenger side of Fields' truck with a gas can, which is when Fields retrieved his handgun from the truck and fired the fatal shot.
Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp called the incident "a tragic case and a senseless act of violence. Mr. Fields' behavior demonstrates an extreme disregard for human life. We are proud to bring a resolution to the case today, and we hope these convictions provide closure and justice for the victim's family."
Sentencing is scheduled for June 10. Fields faces a potential prison term ranging between five and 65 years.
"I want to specifically thanks our attorneys Josh Newberry and Brett Hall and our entire office team for their hard work in prosecuting this case and the dedication of countless law enforcement officers whose professional investigation made these convictions possible," Slemp said. "I also specifically want to thank Investigator Duane Phillips from the Wise County Sheriff's Office for leading the investigation."