Baseball Bat Murder Trial Set for October
The capital murder trial of an Aberdeen man accused of killing his wife with a baseball bat while she slept has been set for October.
Moore County sheriff's deputies charged Bobby L. Chavis with first-degree murder in the July 26, 2006, death of Audrey Stevens Chavis, then 33. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb set the trial date for Oct. 6 and gave attorneys until Aug. 29 to file pretrial motions in the case.
Webb allowed -- over objections by the county attorney -- a motion by District Attorney Maureen Krueger for records of the Division of Social Services and health records. Brenda White, appearing for the county, objected that these records and child-support files could contain confidential health information protected by law. She cited state statutes and HIPAA regulations.
Chavis' attorneys had filed notice of a diminished-capacity and intentional-intoxication defense, Krueger said. The state would need access to his medical records. Defense attorney Arthur Denadio did not oppose the state's motion.
Webb allowed the motion with one covenant: Photocopies were to be made for use by attorneys, with the originals preserved for use by the court at trial "as needed."
The judge also granted Denadio's motion for a "bill of particulars" that would cite any aggravating factors alleged by the state in seeking the death penalty. Krueger objected, saying the previous Rule 24 hearing provided sufficient notice.
Webb agreed that any other aggravating factors suggested by evidence at trial could also be used, as Krueger asked.
In death penalty cases, there can be two phases. In the first, a jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of first-degree murder. If it returns a guilty verdict, the same jurors hear evidence in a second phase and decide whether to recommend life without parole or death. Their recommendation is binding.
Family members of Audrey Chavis were in court for the hearing, sitting grim-faced on front rows in the center of the courtroom. Chavis, a slight, balding man with a full beard, had little visible reaction to the proceedings.
The victim's family members have said she had finally decided to leave what they described as an abusive relationship with her husband at the time he is accused of killing her. According to deputies responding to a 911 call, Chavis called his sister, Sandra Henderson, from a neighbor's house and told her that he thought he had killed his wife. The first deputy to respond found Chavis and Henderson standing in the yard.
The deputy asked Chavis what had happened, and Chavis responded, "You got the call," according to the investigation report. He asked again, and Chavis said, "I killed my wife."
The deputy went into the house and found Audrey Chavis in bed with wounds to her head. He checked for a pulse and found none. He 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.
He 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 her to leave an abusive relationship. The victim had four children, two with Chavis. Those two were at home when the murder occurred.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at jchappell @thepilot.com.
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