Closing arguments, jury deliberation scheduled today in trial of man charged with killing father

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, November 2, 2021

SALISBURY — Lawyers are poised to deliver closing arguments this morning in the first-degree murder trial of a man charged with killing his father.

Juan Chunn, 52, was arrested for the crime in August 2018, just a few months after his 72-year-old father Eugene Chunn was found dead in his residence at 816 E. Franklin St. First responders arrived at the home to find the victim bloodied and dead on his living room couch. 

Juan Chunn, who made the call to 911 for help, told authorities at the time that he’d moved in with his father less than two months before to take care of him by cooking and cleaning.

Since the trial started in Rowan County Superior Court on Wednesday, prosecutors have utilized testimony from Eugene Chunn’s friends, body camera footage captured by law enforcement officers and a number of expert witnesses to build their case against Juan Chunn. 

The prosecution sought to establish motive for the murder through the testimony of Kenneth Gibson, one of Eugene Chunn’s longtime friends. Gibson testified that Eugene Chunn told him weeks before his death that he believed his son had stolen $400 from him. Eugene Chunn was considering sending Juan Chunn back to Georgia, Gibson said, because he suspected his son was on drugs.

On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Brian Taylor presented jurors with the oxygen tank believed by investigators to have been used to bludgeon Eugene Chunn to death. Taylor also showed jurors other pieces of physical evidence from the crime scene, in addition to dozens of pictures taken by investigators.

On Friday, Former North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner Deborah Radisch was called to testify about Eugene Chunn’s injuries, asserting that the cause of death was blunt force trauma and the manner of death was homicide. Radisch described Eugene Chunn’s gruesome injuries in detail, noting that he had multiple fractures on his skull, ribs and arms.

The prosecution rested its case on Monday afternoon, but only after showing jurors an almost two-hour interview conducted by Salisbury Police detective Jeremy Hill. Hill, the lead investigator in the case, originally took the stand in court on Friday and continued his testimony while the video was shown. The interview took place in Augusta, Georgia, on May 4, 2018, several weeks after Eugene Chunn was murdered. It was recorded on Hill’s body camera.

Juan Chunn told Hill in the video he returned to Georgia because he had nowhere else to go in Salisbury after the incident involving his father.

During the interview, Hill peppered Juan Chunn with more questions about his whereabouts in the hours before he called 911 to report his father’s apparent death. Hill told Juan Chunn he was a suspect and that parts of his story did not add up. Juan Chunn also admitted to Hill during the interview he had been using cocaine and marijuana.

Juan Chunn told Hill that there was “something going on” before he moved in with his father in Salisbury and alluded to the fact that Eugene Chunn’s house had been previously burglarized and burned. 

Under cross examination from John Basinger, who is representing Juan Chunn, Hill testified the burglaries and arson referenced in the video were committed in January 2017, more than a year before the murder. Hill said Eugene Chunn was living out of state at the time the crimes were committed, meaning that the residence at 816 E. Franklin St. was unoccupied. No one was charged with either the burglary or arson, Hill said.

After the video ended and Hill’s testimony was complete, the state called Julie Butler as its last witness. Butler, a forensic scientist supervisor for the state crime lab, was responsible for conducting DNA analysis on several items investigators seized from the crime scene.

Butler testified the blood found on the oxygen tank was a match for Eugene Chunn. His DNA was also found on the handle of the oxygen tank, along with a second person’s. However, Butler said the second individual’s DNA could not be identified.

The prosecution rested its case after Butler’s short testimony. Basinger immediately rested his defense, electing not to put any witnesses on the stand or call Juan Chunn to testify.

While Basinger didn’t call any witnesses, he made a motion to have the case dismissed while arguing that the prosecution’s evidence was not sufficient. It is commonplace for defense attorneys to make a motion to dismiss, although the move is typically denied.

Basinger told Judge Lori Hamilton the “motive proffered by the state in this case has not been substantiated” since there was no evidence of theft by Juan Chunn. Furthermore, Basinger argued the prosecution did not prove Juan Chunn had “opportunity” to commit the murder because investigators could not pinpoint Eugene Chunn’s exact time of death.

“If you don’t have time of death, you can’t say (Juan Chunn) was there,” Basinger said.

Hamilton unsurprisingly denied Basinger’s motion for dismissal. To justify the denial, she stated that “we certainly have the time frame (of Eugene Chunn’s death),” even though the exact moment is unknown. Hamilton also noted that, according to Juan Chunn’s own statements to authorities, he walked past his presumably dead father and the bloody oxygen tank used to kill him multiple times in the hours before he called 911 for help.

The jury was released early Monday afternoon while Hamilton met with the prosecution and defense to discuss instructions for jury deliberations. 

Once the jury hears closing arguments this morning, they will be given instructions and begin their deliberations. Since first-degree murder is a class A felony in North Carolina, a guilty verdict could result in life in prison without parole.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

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