McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 29, 2013

Man shoots cancer-stricken wife; 'I only did what she told me'

by Charlotte Underwood
CNHI News Service

LONDON, Ky. — A Kentucky man told a 911 dispatcher that he shot and killed his cancer-stricken wife early Wednesday because she asked him to do it.

"I guarantee, I only did what she told me," Ernest "Chris" Chumbley said, according to a recording of the 911 dispatch call.

During the call, Chumbley, 48, sounded distraught and often became incomprehensible because he was crying. He told the dispatcher his wife, 44-year-old Virginia Chumbley, had cancer "all over."

The shooting happened about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Chumbleys’ home near London, Ky., about 75 miles south of Lexington.

Chumbley called 911 and reported he had shot his wife. He remained on the phone with the dispatcher while he waited for deputies to arrive. He asked more than once for deputies to hurry and assured the dispatcher he was no longer armed. 

At one point, Ernest Chumbley asked the dispatcher if he could see his wife. The dispatcher told him not to move, and Ernest Chumbley replied, "I want to go see my wife."

"You need to stay right where you're at, sir," the dispatcher said.

Ernest Chumbley told the dispatcher his wife was in her bed, and that's where Laurel County Sheriff John Root said deputies found her, dead from what appeared to be more than one gunshot wound. 

A .32-caliber pistol was found in the home, according to Root. Deputies found Chumbley in his living room near the front door of his home, and arrested him without incident. 

Ernest Chumbley was charged with murder and jailed in the Laurel County Correctional Center. 

Laurel County Coroner Doug Bowling said preliminary autopsy results confirmed that Virginia Chumbley had cancer, and she died of multiple gunshot wounds.

A next-door neighbor of the couple, Stanley Campbell, said Virginia Chumbley had struggled with cancer for more than three years and that she was "very sick with it."

"You could hear her at night over there moaning in pain, and it was so sad," Campbell said.

He added the couple had been "wonderful neighbors" over the years.

"In all the 10 years that I lived next door to them, I never once heard them fight or raise their voice to one another. They really and truly loved one another," Campbell said.

He emphasized the only way that Ernest Chumbley would have shot his wife is if she had asked him to do it because of her illness.

"I think she was in a lot of pain and must have asked him to shoot her to end it," he said. 

Campbell, who recalled seeing the couple strolling along the street when he first moved to the neighborhood, said those walks ended when Virginia Chumbley became ill.

"After she got the cancer a couple of years ago, you would barely see her out. She was maybe on the front porch once a month. She would try to walk and would often fall. She was just really sick. You could hear her at 2 or 3 in the morning moaning in pain, just gasping for air," Campbell said.  

Ernest Chumbley remained jailed as of late Wednesday with bail set at $200,000 cash.

Charlotte Underwood writes for The Times Tribune in Corbin, Ky.