A Lee County man was sentenced in Lee County Circuit Court for a 2013 shotgun murder.
Richard Allen Brooks, 46, of Ewing, was sentenced to serve the next 21 years and four months in the Virginia Department of Corrections after pleading no contest in April to a charge of second-degree murder.
The charge stemmed from the shotgun shooting death of Brooks’ stepfather, Danny Catron, in Rose Hill on June 30, 2013.
Judge Tammy S. McElyea imposed the punishment following a sentencing hearing in circuit court on Monday.
On the day of the shooting, Lee County sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call reporting a gunshot that appeared to come from Catron’s apartment. A deputy found Catron’s door standing open with no else in the vicinity except for a mortally wounded Catron lying in his recliner.
Catron, who was unable to communicate with law enforcement or rescue personnel, passed away shortly after arriving at the emergency room. Investigators found no signs of forced entry or struggle inside the apartment. They also did not find any firearm or spent shell casing in the apartment.
During the course of the crime scene investigation, Gina Hoskins approached the investigators and said she had someone in her truck they needed to speak with.
Brooks then emerged from the vehicle and announced “I am the one you are looking for. I am the one that did it.”
Brooks told the investigator that he went to Catron’s apartment that morning to sell him a shotgun, but Catron slapped him in the face and the firearm accidentally discharged.
However, Hoskins told the investigator that Brooks had told her a different version of events. She said that Brooks woke her up that morning pounding on her door with a 12-gauge shotgun in his possession. Brooks asked her to help him get rid of the shotgun because he had just used it to “shoot Catron in half.”
According to Hoskins, Brooks told her that he had thrown the spent shotgun shell in a creek on the way over to her house. Brooks also told her that he had been drinking the night before and woke up after having a nightmare that Catron had beaten his mother up and broken her jaw. Brooks said he retrieved the shotgun and went to Catron’s residence.
Brooks told Hoskins that when Catron answered the door, he asked if Brooks had brought any beer with him. To that Brooks responded, “I’ve got your beer right here,” as he pulled the shotgun and fired at Catron.
According to Hoskins, Brooks asked her for a ride to Kentucky to hide out but she declined. Instead, she talked him into turning himself over to the police.
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, the defense called family and friends of Brooks to testify that he was a good guy and had been physically abused by Catron when he was a child. The defense also presented evidence that Catron was a convicted felon for drug offenses and not well-liked in the community.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Shawn Hines pointed out that Brooks himself admitted to drinking a 30-pack of beer most days over the past 30 years and that he had been drinking heavily the night before the shooting.
Hines called Dr. Amy Tharp, an assistant medical examiner from Roanoke, Va., to testify concerning Catron’s injuries. Tharp testified that the barrel of the gun would have been at least 2 feet away from Catron’s body at the time the gun fired based on the gunpowder stippling left around the entrance wound.
The medical examiner testified that Catron’s injuries would have been painful not only due to the wound itself, but also the damage inflicted internally to his ribs, lung, stomach and pancreas. Tharp also testified that stomach acids and pancreatic enzymes had spilled from wounds into Catron’s body cavity and would have been very painful to him in his final moments of life.
In closing, the prosecution argued that the abuse that allegedly occurred took place over 30 years ago and was not the reason Brooks shot and killed his stepfather. The prosecution argued Brooks was angry and heavily intoxicated from a night of partying and simply shot Catron for no good reason.
The judge sentenced Brooks to serve 40 years in prison but suspended 18 years and eight months of his sentence. She placed him on 15 years of supervised probation following his release from prison and ordered him to reimburse the state victim’s fun in the amount of $2,000 contributed to funeral expenses.