Chavis Murder Trial to StartBY JOHN CHAPPELL: STAFF WRITER
The capital murder trial of an Aberdeen man accused of beating his wife to death with a baseball bat starts Monday.
Bobby L. Chavis could be sentenced to die if a jury convicts him of first-degree murder for the July 2006 death of Audrey Stevens Chavis, then 33.
In a summary of the state's case during a September pre-trial hearing, District Attorney Maureen Krueger said Chavis did not appear at a child support hearing that summer, which would have sent him to jail.
"He didn't show up in court," she said. "He bought a baseball bat three days before. He beat her with that bat as she lay in bed."
Chavis left his wife there, but later returned to the bedside and held a pillow on her until she died, Krueger said during that hearing, as she described in detail how Chavis is alleged to have killed his wife.
The trial has been delayed several times. It had been set for last October, but Superior Court Judge James M. Webb granted a defense motion for a delay to give a mitigation specialist more time to complete her research.
Juries in death cases have to weigh mitigating versus aggravating factors during a sentencing phase of trial if they return a guilty verdict on a first-degree murder charge. Ann Doherty, the mitigation specialist, was not retained by the defense team early enough to prepare for an October trial.
Webb asked the chief justice to order this special session this month. He will return to the bench to hear the case, which could take several weeks.
Defense attorney Arthur Donadio gave notice in a December hearing that, based on information in medical records only recently obtained from Johns Hopkins, Chavis will change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. Chavis was sent to Dorothea Dix Hospital for further evaluation before trial.
According to deputies who responded to the 911 call, Chavis had called his sister, Sandra Henderson, from a neighbor's house to tell her that he thought he had killed his wife. The first deputies to respond found Chavis and Henderson standing in the yard. He asked them to let him go in and secure his dog so they would not have to put the dog down, according to statements made in court hearings.
When the deputy asked Chavis what had happened, Chavis responded, "You got the call," the investigation report says. He asked again, and Chavis said, "I killed my wife," the report continues.
Inside the house, the deputy found Audrey Chavis in bed with wounds to her head. He checked for a pulse and found none, then went back outside and arrested Bobby Chavis. According to the report, Chavis waived his rights at the Sheriff's Department and gave a detailed statement about the incident.
Chavis has a long criminal record and spent more than a year in prison from 1994 to 1995 for a conviction of 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 and has received probation in the past for convictions for cruelty to animals, disorderly conduct and larceny.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.