Suspect to Plead InsanityBY JOHN CHAPPELL: STAFF WRITER
Bobby Chavis, accused of bludgeoning his wife to death with a baseball bat as she slept, will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Defense attorneys Arthur Donadio and Butch Jenkins filed a motion Tuesday to delay the trial. They also gave notice on the insanity plea in the death of Chavis' wife, Audrey Stevens Chavis, whom he is accused of killing July 25, 2006.
Moore County Sheriff's deputies responding to a 911 call from his sister, Sandra Henderson, found her and Chavis standing in the yard outside. When asked, he told the deputies he'd killed his wife.
Chavis has a long criminal record and spent more than a year in prison from 1994 to 1995 after conviction on assault with a deadly weapon on a law-enforcement officer. He also spent a month in prison for a conviction of communicating threats in 1994. He has received probation in the past for convictions for cruelty to animals, disorderly conduct and larceny.
Neighbors and family said at the time that the marriage was stormy. Some said they had urged Chavis' wife to leave an abusive relationship. The victim had four children, two with Chavis. Those two were at home when the murder occurred.
In a Sept. 8 hearing, Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger said that at the time Chavis knew he would be going to jail for failure to pay child support and didn't show up in court. She summarized evidence in the case by request of Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb at that hearing.
"He bought a baseball bat three days before," Krueger said. "He beat her with that bat as she lay in bed. Then he waited in another room for her to die. He could hear her gurgling. He went back in and put a pillow over her. He held it down, watching the clock for eight minutes until she was dead."
On Monday, Krueger asked Webb to grant a state motion sending Chavis to Dorothea Dix Hospital for mental evaluation. His lawyers had previously filed notice of intent to mount a defense based on diminished capacity, and the state was moving for this evaluation.
"We are running out of time," Donadio said, concerned their client would be away and unavailable as his January trial neared.
Evaluation Time Debated
Webb wanted to know how long the state would need for this evaluation.
"The last one took approximately two weeks," Krueger said. "He would be able to return to jail, but the report may not be done by Jan. 12. We prepared that motion for the court, Your Honor, and printouts for the defense as well."
Donadio said the only thing Chavis' attorneys were concerned about was the time.
"If he is sent to Dix tomorrow, we would like to add that he be returned two weeks hence," he said.
The DA didn't know exactly when Chavis could be transported to Dix for the two-week evaluation.
"I would support Dec. 31 as a cutoff date," she said. "Two weeks on the floor was enough in the past."
Donadio noted that his client has already been sent to Dix by a jailer on one occasion, in 2006. Webb agreed.
"The court seems to think Dec. 31 reasonable for his return," he said.
With it settled that Chavis would be evaluated at Dorothea Dix but returned sometime before the end of the month, consideration turned to the defense motion to continue. If granted, trial would again be delayed.
"We received reports from Johns Hopkins on Saturday that were requested in July," Donadio said. "We need a neuropsychologist and time to prepare (based on this new information) for trial."
They wanted another postponement for this reason. The report shows that Chavis had suffered from rheumatic fever as a child. He was 8 years old at the time. Doctors would say that that childhood illness could bring on recurring psychotic episodes for the rest of his life, according to Donadio.
'Prepared to Go Forward'
"The court is aware that the defendant has been in jail for 866 days," Webb said. "This court applied to Sarah Parker, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, for a special session to hear this case in January. Chief Justice Parker consented to that request and set a special session for Jan. 12. The defense gave notice of a diminished-capacity defense."
Donadio said it had taken several months to get these records.
"Now the defense moves for another continuance," Webb said. "And gives notice of a not guilty by reason of insanity defense."
"Dr. Blackshear of Duke University gave his preliminary report on Sunday," Donadio said. "Our psychologist says Bobby's rheumatic fever in early childhood would bring psychotic episodes throughout his life. We won't be able to interview Bobby while he is at Dix. It took a heroic search to get these records from Johns Hopkins. They couldn't find them."
The defense therefore filed a motion for continuance based on the need for a new psychological consultant, a neuropsychologist, Donadio told the court.
"The court takes notice it was filed this day at 12:51 p.m.," Webb said.
Again, Donadio said this long-sought medical record and the Duke University doctor's report had just came in over the weekend.
"The Johns Hopkins records were only received Saturday," Donadio said again. "We heard from Dr. Blackshear on Sunday. There is a serious issue regarding formation of specific intent."
Webb asked what, if anything, the state had to say about the motion to continue.
"We are prepared to go forward," Krueger said. "The clerk of court has already summoned a couple hundred jurors (for the Jan. 12 trial date)."
"Four hundred," Webb said. Then -- after taking some time to consider -- "The defense motion is denied."
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.