Chavis Pleads Guilty
In a surprising turn of events Friday, a man accused of murdering his wife with a baseball bat pleaded guilty.
Bobby Lynn Chavis was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus another 12 to 15 years under a plea bargain deal. He could have faced the death penalty if a jury had convicted him of first-degree murder for killing his wife, Audrey Stevens Chavis, 33, in July 2006.
He is accused of bludgeoning his wife as she slept and smothering her with a pillow until she died.
Defense attorneys Arthur Donadio and Butch Jenkins had filed notice that Chavis would plead not guilty by reason of insanity and had been telling prospective jurors they contend mental illness kept Chavis from being capable of premeditation. The trial could have taken several weeks.
At the urging of the victim's family -- District Attorney Maureen Krueger and Assistant District Attorney Peter Strickland worked out a deal with the defense that spared Chavis' life. Jurors were thanked for their service and released.
Harley Taylor and James "Ed" Taylor -- the two oldest children of Audrey Chavis -- both spoke in court about the impact their mother's death had on their lives.
"The victim's family displayed an exceptional act of mercy in this case," Krueger told Superior Court James Webb. "This plea is being entered so that Harley and Ed never have to explain to their sisters that they had a hand in their father's death sentence.
"They were only 16 and 14 years old, respectively, when their mother was murdered. The defendant was their stepfather. Together, the defendant and the victim had two small children, ages 2 and 5. They were in the home on the night their mother was murdered."
It was that relationship between the siblings of the murder victim that her family considered in urging an end to the trial and asking the state to accept a plea deal, according to Krueger. Before sentencing, Krueger summarized the state's evidence as she had in earlier hearings.
"Prior to her death, Audrey Lynn Chavis made plans to leave the defendant while he was incarcerated on child support charges and go to a domestic violence shelter," Krueger said. "The defendant discovered the plans. The defendant used a baseball bat to bludgeon his wife as she slept. Afterward, he smothered her with a pillow for some seven to eight minutes."
Krueger told Webb it was the ongoing family relationship among the victim's four children that prompted the plea. She called the killing heinous, atrocious and cruel because "the victim went to her grave not knowing if her children were safe."
Chavis pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill.
Taxpayers have been spared the expense of a lengthy trial. Had the jury convicted Chavis, it would then have heard more evidence and recommended either life in prison or death to the court.
Judges have no discretion, because the jury's decision on punishment is binding, as Webb frequently advised prospective jurors. Some 400 residents had been summoned and divided into groups ordered to call in daily for reporting instructions.
Many members of Audrey Lynn Chavis' family were present for the plea. The victim's brother, Ken Stevens, had written a letter, that was presented to the court Friday morning. Her mother, Alma Stevens, was too distraught to address the court.
Chavis, a slight, balding man who had shaved his full beard before trial, generally showed little visible reaction to proceedings other than listening and occasionally conferring with Donadio and Jenkins. He had signed an affidavit earlier accepted by the court that allowed his attorneys to accept plea deals on his behalf.
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 had 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 jchappell@ thepilot.com.n
More like this story