Police believe a young woman ended her own life earlier this month when she placed what she believed to be an unloaded handgun in her mouth and pulled the trigger, but a father claims his daughter was murdered.
In the evening hours of Feb. 6, authorities were dispatched to a residence at 1312 Park Drive in Mount Airy, according to Surry County EMS records.
Once there, they found Alisha Chaney, 20, had been fatally shot.
John Shelton, Surry County’s medical examiner and EMS director, ruled the death a suicide, but Chaney’s father, Brian Barr, isn’t sold on the turn of events authorities have determined.
He said his daughter was shot in the head, but he doesn’t believe she was the one who pulled the trigger.
Intended or not
“We have to rule the death a suicide,” said Shelton.
Shelton indicated he had to seek guidance from the state medical examiner’s resource office, however.
“By definition, whether the shot was fired accidentally or intentionally, it is ruled a suicide,” said Shelton.
He explained his office could not know whether Chaney had purposely pulled the trigger in taking her own life or accidentally done so, but it is his ruling that she was the one who pulled the trigger.
“By the position of the weapon and who was holding it, we had no choice but to rule it a suicide.”
Shelton said he could not go into additional detail regarding the death.
Officials from the Mount Airy Police Department were initially tight-lipped regarding the circumstances surrounding Chaney’s death, noting they wanted to respect her family’s privacy.
However, Barr has called the investigation into question publicly on social media and reached out to mainstream media outlets.
After a public records request was submitted to the police department, Chief Dale Watson offered to sit down and go over documents related to the investigation into Chaney’s death.
Pages of supplements to the police report outline what investigators believe happened that night.
According to the reports, Chaney, Jarod White, 31, Justin Wheeler, 38, and Dustin Lawson, 27, were upstairs at the residence, which is owned by Ronald and Wanda Roberts. The three men allegedly all admit the four of them had been smoking methamphetamine and playing with a handgun, according to a report filed by Detective Brad Quesinberry.
The .380-caliber pistol allegedly was brought to the scene by White, something he eventually admitted to doing. The story of the men was consistent between all three.
After allegedly smoking meth, the four were playing with the gun. At one point, according to the police reports, White had placed the weapon in his mouth. Chaney and White were sitting on a bed, while Wheeler and Lawson were in chairs. At some point, a live round was ejected and fell to the floor. When the three men bent over to search for the round, they heard the gun go off.
Chaney was dead on the floor.
The three men ran down the steps, according to a statement from Patricia Hardy, a resident at the home. Wheeler and Lawson fled the scene, while White stayed.
Thus, investigators note White’s statement was taken at the police department that evening. The statements of the other two men were taken days later. However, all three statements explained the same turn of events.
Additionally, in a statement to authorities, Wanda Roberts notes she had been upstairs just prior to the shot being fired, and the four were getting along with each other.
Though Barr says he has heard there were three shots fired, statements provided by all of those at the scene indicate only one shot was heard by all who were present and interviewed by authorities.
Police believe Chaney saw the round ejected to the floor and believed the weapon to be empty. Based on her wounds, while the three men were searching for the ejected round Chaney placed the gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger.
Police ‘blew it off’
Barr said his daughter had made her fair share of bad decisions in early adulthood, but that doesn’t mean her life was worthless or that the circumstances surrounding her death shouldn’t raise questions.
Chaney had been due in court last March on charges related to felony larceny of a motor vehicle. She appeared in The News’ Most Wanted in January 2015 for probation violations related to underage consumption of alcohol.
She was also charged with felony obtaining property by false pretense in October 2015.
“I think they just blew it off,” said Barr. “It’s a drug house, and it was just easier to rule it a suicide than to investigate her death.”
In recent years, the location — or those inhabiting it — has been a center for at least some level of criminal activity, according to past police reports.
Joseph Cory Hardy, 35, and Tiffany Gail Jackson, 27, both of the same Park Drive home, were cited on Nov. 4, 2015 on charges of a larceny at Granite City Cigar. Hardy was also served with warrants related to the larceny and possession of a stolen motor vehicle at the home in January 2016.
Amber Beth Roberts, 35, whose address was listed as the same residence, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for a larceny offense in February 2016.
No drug-related arrests at the residence appear in a search of The News’ Police Reports covering the duration of the past three years.
Watson, in the interview on Monday, indicated police had located stolen vehicles at the location more than once.
Barr said police are refusing to answer questions regarding what happened on Feb. 6 because they didn’t do a proper investigation into his daughter’s death, but the grieving father explained the circumstances he believes surrounded his daughter’s death.
“He killed my baby,” said Barr, who has also accused White of murdering Chaney on his Facebook page.
Barr stated all three men fled the scene that night, and he believes they fled because they are guilty of murder.
He said gunpowder was found on his daughter’s hand, but he believes that was in part due to a struggle for the weapon. There were also three shots fired, according to somebody who was outside of the house.
Nobody may ever know how many shots were fired, said Barr. Rather than being taped off and treated like the scene of an investigation, the house was cleaned and repaired the morning after Chaney’s death.
Barr also noted his daughter grew up around guns, making it unlikely she would have accidentally pulled the trigger on herself. She would not be as irresponsible as to place a weapon in her mouth.
Watson said his department treats every investigation seriously, but the physical evidence makes it clear Chaney was the one who pulled the trigger that evening.
Though Barr claims Chaney was shot by somebody else, reports point to a number of factors which lead investigators to believe the only person who shot Chaney was Chaney.
They cite the position of her body, also noting the pool of blood was undisturbed. Had the body been moved after her death, the pool of blood would have been noticeably disturbed. Gunpowder was found on her hand, and parts of flesh were found in the barrel and in the weapon’s chamber.
Her teeth had not been broken, suggesting she had willingly placed the gun in her mouth. The angle of the entry wound was also consistent with a self-inflicted wound. Her finger was on the trigger.
No other charges
“There was a bag of drugs at the scene,” said Barr.
The father wonders why there was not even a charge for possession of a controlled substance filed against one or all of the individuals who were at the scene of his daughter’s death.
Police reports confirm there was a bag of methamphetamine found at the scene, as well as a smoking device, digital scales and syringes.
There’s also the matter of the firearms which were brought to the residence, said Barr.
“Why were there no charges for a felon in possession of a firearm?” he questioned.
White and Lawson are convicted felons, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety records, while Wheeler has a string of misdemeanor convictions including possession of a schedule VI controlled substance, communicating threats, resisting a police officer, assault with a deadly weapon and assault in pointing a gun at an individual; he spent more than a month in jail on a DWI conviction.
Watson said the drug charges and the possession of a firearm charge certainly could be filed.
However, an investigator notes in his report he informed White the department was not interested in filing charges related to the drugs or the gun. White admitted to purchasing the firearm illegally and bringing it to the scene.
Watson said the case is closed, and it has been officially ruled an accidental shooting death which was the result of a self-inflicted wound.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.