Jury finds man guilty of first-degree murder for killing father with oxygen tank

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

SALISBURY — Juan Renardo Chunn was found guilty of first-degree murder in Rowan County Superior Court on Tuesday for bludgeoning his father to death with an oxygen tank.

The verdict was delivered after approximately three hours of deliberation by the jury. A little over two hours into deliberations, jurors reported to Judge Lori Hamilton that they could not reach a unanimous decision. Hamilton urged them to reach a decision and they did so about 40 minutes later.

“I appreciate the hard work and commitment of Assistant District Attorneys Marsha Goodenow and Brian Taylor in the trial of this case before the jury,” District Attorney Brandy Cook said in a statement. “They worked alongside the Salisbury Police Department to seek justice for Eugene Chunn and his family which was delivered today by the jury’s unanimous verdict.”

After the guilty verdict, Juan Chunn, 52, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

The conviction comes more than three years after Eugene Chunn, 72, was found dead on the living room couch of his 816 E. Franklin St. residence in the early morning hours of April 19, 2018. 

Juan Chunn reported the death to authorities through a 911 call and told responding officers that he’d moved in with his father less than two months before to take care of him. As investigators began to look into the homicide, Juan Chunn quickly became a suspect and was charged a few months later.

The trial started last week when prosecutors sought to establish motive through the testimony of Eugene Chunn’s longtime friend, Kenneth Gibson, who said Eugene Chunn suspected his son stole $400 from him and was using drugs. Gibson said Eugene Chunn was planning to send his son back to Georgia. 

Prosecutors continued to build their case by calling law enforcement officers to the stand as well as having expert witnesses in the field of forensics testify about the crime scene and the objects found there. 

Using body camera footage and investigator testimony, prosecutors took aim at Juan Chunn’s inconsistent account of where he was in the hours before he called 911 to report his father’s death. While speaking with the lead investigator after the murder, Juan Chunn admitted he’d been “in and out” of the house all day and walked past his presumably dead father multiple times, but said he assumed Eugene Chunn was asleep.

The defense did not call any witnesses, present evidence or have Juan Chunn testify.

During the prosecution’s closing argument on Tuesday morning, Goodenow painted Juan Chunn as an angry son with a drug habit who grew so frustrated with his father’s demands and lack of financial support that he eventually killed him.

In the defense’s unsuccessful final plea to jurors, John Basinger sought to discredit the prosecution’s case by telling the jury that all of the evidence presented was circumstantial. Basinger said there were no witnesses and no DNA or fingerprint evidence to implicate his client as the killer. Basinger told jurors the prosecution wanted them use their imaginations to envision a scenario where Juan Chunn was the killer, which he said they were not permitted to do.

After the verdict was read aloud in the courtroom around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, Basinger asked for each juror to be polled. All 12 jurors confirmed guilty was their verdict.

Two of Eugene Chunn’s daughters addressed the court after the verdict. In addition to giving her own statement, one of the daughters read a letter written by a third daughter. The daughters described their father as a jokester and a good person who only wanted to help Juan Chunn by bringing his son into his home. They said their father was not a drug dealer or drug user, which was alluded to during portions of the trial. Instead, he spent “the last 20 years of his life trying to make sure people stayed away from drugs,” the daughters said.

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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 ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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