43 year old Christopher Nicholas Orlando has heard from members of the Tennessee Board of Parole and the news for him isn't good. He will have to spend at least two more years in prison.
Orlando is serving a 35 year prison sentence for facilitation of first degree murder in the death of 20 year old Joshua Murphy. He is incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee. A previous conviction against Orlando for possession of cocaine ran consecutively with the murder case and expired in 2009. Orlando's sentence in the murder case is due to expire in 2040. He has served a total of 13 years and 3 months.
During a parole hearing Tuesday morning, March 8 three members of the board, Tim Gobble, Zane Duncan, and Roberta Nevil Kustoff voted by video conference to deny parole for Orlando due to the seriousness of the offense and to reconsider the case in March, 2018. Three affirmative votes of the seven member parole board were all that was required to make the decision final in this case.
Orlando appeared by video conference from the prison where he is incarcerated. The three parole board members were at other locations. And District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway and the victim's uncle and aunt Ricky and Melissa Murphy were at the Cookeville office of Probation and Parole where they spoke in opposition to Orlando's release.
Murphy was shot and killed in a secluded area in the Laurel Hill Community at the end of Old Eagle Creek Road on Sunday, September 15, 2002. His body was discovered three days later. Officials said Orlando and a co-defendant, Melvin Turnbill suspected Murphy of stealing methamphetamine. Orlando was tried and convicted of the crime by a DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury in April, 2004.
Turnbill entered a guilty plea to facilitation to first-degree murder in September, 2003 and was given a 25-year sentence. Turnbill was granted parole in March 2015 after serving more than twelve years but he has run afoul of the law again and may be headed back to prison. Turnbill is currently incarcerated in Putnam County on burglary and DUI charges.
Orlando said he was sorry for the death of Murphy during the parole hearing Tuesday and for the first time took responsibility for being the triggerman in the shooting. In the last parole hearing three years ago Orlando blamed Turnbill for actually committing the murder. "I take full responsibility for my actions sir. I was involved and it was a very tragic thing that happened and there's not a day that goes by that I don't regret what happened. I feel truly upset for the pain I've caused the family. I feel terribly about what I've done. If I had not been on the drugs I was on then no way would I have been involved in anything like that. I can't blame it solely on the drugs. I was a grown man. I made poor decisions and something tragic happened. I am sorry for what I did and the family that I hurt," said Orlando.
"I'm not the same man I was when I did this terrible thing," Orlando continued."I have been in prison a few years now. I believe I have grown. I've seen what I've done wrong. I know what it will take for me to be a productive and law abiding citizen. I would like the chance to be with my daughter. She was just a young girl when I got locked up. I would also like to be a part of my granddaughter's life and the rest of my family. If the parole board does give me this chance I can promise and guarantee that the lifestyle I had before, I will never repeat it again. It is something I'm ashamed and embarrassed of and I'm hurt for what I did. I have found church. I'm Catholic and I've been attending a lot of services. I will have strong family support and job opportunities," said Orlando.
Murphy's uncle and aunt, Ricky and Melissa Murphy gave an emotional plea for Orlando to be denied parole."I just feel like Mr. Orlando has not spent enough time for the crime he done," said Ricky Murphy. " I don't get to see my nephew at Christmas no more or on his birthdays. I just miss him so bad," he said.
"He was took from us. We don't get to be with him at Christmas or holidays. All I have left is a picture on the wall of a little boy that we don't have anymore," said Melissa Murphy. It was over drugs. All over drugs. And it wasn't worth killing a human over. Josh was deeply loved and cared about. It's not right. It's not fair to Josh's family. I know he (Orlando) says he is living right with God but when he gets out is he still going to live right for God or is it just jail talk? You don't kill an innocent person over drugs. I don't think Chris should get out because he could go back to his old ways just like Turnbill," she said.
District Attorney Dunaway told the parole board members that his office stands against Orlando's release from prison." My office stands in opposition because this is a very serious offense. It is a very violent offense. We have a large interest in keeping violent offenders such as Mr. Orlando off the street and in prison. Only fourteen years of a 35 year sentence has been served. He was sentenced as a range II multiple offender at the time of his conviction. So we're not dealing with a first offender here. We're dealing with a history of problems on Mr. Orlando's part. I would ask the board to consider the seriousness of this offense and the public safety considerations. I am personally concerned about the public safety considering his violent past and also the deterrent effect. I think fourteen years of a 35 year sentence is not sufficient to deter like conduct," said D.A. Dunaway.
"Mr. Orlando's history enhancement factors were considered at his sentence and those included his criminal history," D.A. Dunaway continued. "He was a felon already. Exceptional cruelty was involved in this case as Mr. Orlando stated. He took the firearm from his co-defendant (Turnbill) and discharged multiple rounds from a twelve gauge shotgun into the face, chest, and leg area of Mr. Murphy that took his life. The record also reflects that they left the body in this remote area for several days. The autopsy report reflects that the body was in a state of decomposition. So not only did they kill Mr. Murphy but they left him in this wooded area to be found several days later. During this murder they used a firearm and most telling, Mr. Orlando committed this heinous act while he was on probation on a felony charge for sale and delivery of methamphetamine. His history is extensive and one of violence as well as extensive drug activity. The record reflects that the motivation for this crime was the theft of their drugs (methamphetamine). They planned it (shooting) ahead of time. They bought shotgun shells. They went and retrieved a shotgun. All of this was well thought out and well planned and was intentional. They took him (Murphy) to a remote area, shot him and left him for dead literally. I'm glad that Mr. Orlando admits his full involvement today. I think he testified truthfully today. He was the shooter. But it's interesting as I review the file, he gave no less than four statements to TBI investigators (previously) that did not admit his guilt but those statements progressed to a state where he blamed Mr. Turnbill for their actions," said D.A. Dunaway.
At the conclusion of the hearing Parole Board member Gobble said while Orlando had made progress he could not vote to parole him now."There is no question that this is a terrible crime. I do believe you're making some progress. I believe in rehabilitation. I do believe people can change. I see that you had a good program participation and you have a good disciplinary record so I think those are indications and evidence that you are making effort. However I'm not ready to parole you today. I don't think you're quite there. I think with your violent past at this point there is a potential risk to public safety and I'm not exactly comfortable with voting to parole you due to the seriousness of the offense. My vote is to decline you and to review your case again in two years. But I am pleased with what I am seeing in your record. You are working to better yourself. Your behavior has improved and you are working to address drug addictions. But you are convicted of a very serious offense," said Gobble.
Parole Board members Duncan and Kustoff concurred with Gobble in voting to decline parole and to review the case again in March, 2018