Board of Parole Members Say Orlando Should Be Denied Release from Prison

March 4, 2013
Dwayne Page
Split screen (Orlando) top, (Traughber), right (Montgomery) left
Christopher Nicholas Orlando

He has already served almost eleven years for the fatal shooting of a DeKalb County man, but 40 year old Christopher Nicholas Orlando may be in prison for at least another three years.

After a parole hearing Monday morning, two members of the Tennessee Board of Parole hearing the case, Chairman Charles Traughber and member Richard Montgomery voted to decline parole for Orlando at this time but to reconsider the case in three years. The file now goes to the other five parole board members, who will review it and cast their votes. Four matching votes are needed for a final decision in this case.


Orlando is serving a 45 year prison sentence for facilitation of first degree murder in the death of 20 year old Joshua Murphy. Orlando is incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee.

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, of which he must serve at least 30 percent. Turnbill remains incarcerated at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville. His parole hearing is set for April, 2014.

The parole hearing for Orlando Monday was held at the Cookeville offices of the Tennessee Board of Probation. Neither Orlando nor the state parole board members were present in Cookeville for the hearing. Traughber and Montomery communicated by video conference from other locations in the state while Orlando was connected by video from the prison where he is incarcerated. Deputy District Attorney General Gary McKenzie who was present in Cookeville, could see Traughber, Montgomery and Orlando on a television monitor and he could be seen by Traughber, Montgomery, and Orlando on a monitor from their locations. No one from the victim's family attended the hearing.

While Orlando said he was sorry for the death of Murphy during the parole hearing Monday, he denied being the triggerman in the shooting, blaming Turnbill for actually committing the murder. "I was there and I made a lot of poor decisions but I didn't shoot him," said Orlando. "Nothing justifies anyone being killed, especially over any kind of drugs. I regret every day that I've been in prison about what happened that day. Let the family know that I am truly sorry for what happened to Josh. It was a bad time in my life and in all three of our lives. We were on meth. It was a horrible thing. I'm trying to do what I can to better myself. I am truly, truly sorry for what happened. Its something that disturbs me everyday. Since I've gotten off drugs, I've seen the bad choices I've made. I know that the drug part of it itself was the main cause of it. If you by chance would let me get parole and let me prove it to the parole board, to Josh's family, and to my family that I can be a law abiding citizen, I'll do the best I can," said Orlando


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Chairman Traughber found Orlando less than forthcoming about his involvement in the crime. " You have not been forthcoming. You have been trying to evade and distance yourself as to your involvement in this crime. Its evident that you were more heavily involved in this crime than you would want us to believe," said Traughber. " The way this man was killed was very horrific. Because of that, my vote is to decline you and see you in three years. You were really involved in this crime. You wanted to distance yourself from it which does not indicate that you really accept the responsibility for your part in this crime. It was uncalled for. Murphy did not have a weapon. He was not threatening you or your co-defendant (Turnbill). To release you at this time would depreciate the seriousness of your crime or promote disrespect for the law. You are continuing to do well while you're in the department of corrections but your behavior and your criminal activity in this crime is why I cannot vote to grant you parole. That's my vote," said Traughber.

"I too agree with the chairman," said Montgomery. "You should serve more time for the seriousness of this crime. Hopefully in three years from now, you will have improved your position on your education and training to hopefully be a productive citizen when you are released, if that's the case in three years. I agree 100% that we should wait and review this case again in three years," said Montgomery.

Earlier in the hearing, Orlando recounted events that led to the shooting that September, 2002 weekend. "I had stayed at his (Turnbill's) house. Turnbill woke me up and said someone had stole his meth lab and that he had to get Josh Murphy because it was his meth lab also. It was poor judgement on my part. I got involved in it. I bought him (Turnbill) the shotgun shells. I met up with them (Turnbill and Murphy) later. They got to arguing and that's when the murder occurred." said Orlando.

"My charge partner (Turnbill) had pulled out the shotgun, loaded it and pointed it at me and Murphy," said Orlando. ‘We (Murphy and I) were standing next to each other. He (Turnbill) said I know you stole my meth lab. At the time all three of us had been doing meth. I looked at Josh and Josh looked at me. He (Turnbill) was talking out of his head. As he (Turnbill) pointed the gun and shot it, Josh and I turned around and ran. I fell down and he (Turnbill) shot Josh," said Orlando.

Gary McKenzie, Deputy District Attorney, speaking on behalf of the victim's family, said Orlando was not being candid with the board. "After 13 years of prosecuting, this is probably one of the more cold blooded cases that I've seen," said McKenzie. " The state had difficulty in proving who pulled the trigger. But that in no form or fashion lessens the responsibility of what Mr. Orlando did. What came out at trial, the facts of the case were that Mr. Turnbill and the defendant here today (Orlando) had a dispute with the victim (Murphy) over narcotics. After that dispute, Mr. Orlando went and purchased the ammunition for the shotgun that was used. The co-defendant in the case, (Turnbill), he and Orlando had agreed upon a secluded area. Turnbill brought the victim to this location where Orlando was waiting. Orlando had possession of the shotgun and ammunition, which he gave to the co-defendant, Turnbill. They went out into the woods. The evidence would have shown that at gunpoint, the victim went out into a secluded location. At this point and time the co-defendant in the case (Turnbill) pulled the shotgun on the victim (Murphy) and the victim fled. The first shot nearly blew the victim's leg off. And as that victim (Murphy) lay dying in the woods, (and would have succumbed to his injuries from the massive blow to the leg and laid there and bled out), the two individuals charged with this crime walked over to where the victim was at and shot him twice in the face with a shotgun at such close range that the wadding used in the shotgun shell that contains the pellets, was deep inside the wound and had to be removed by the Medical Examiner's office. That is the close distance at which this victim received the fatal blow. No question this victim knew it was coming, saw the shotgun in his face, and his last visions were these two individuals standing over him. After this was over with, the evidence was that these two conspired together to hide the evidence to get rid of it," said McKenzie.

"I appreciate the fact that Mr Orlando has tried to better himself but I do believe that he is not being candid about his involvement. I know of no way we can prove who pulled the trigger but certainly his involvement was not just his showing up out there. That is not what transpired at trial. Had it been, he would not be here today in front of you. He was complicit in this crime. He helped set it up. He helped lure the victim out there and he participated in the homicide and participated in covering up the homicide," said McKenzie."

"You have in front of you a man who had probation, had chance after chance, maybe too many chances and he failed. And his failure to follow the rules resulted in the death of an individual in a horrible, horrible way. This is a serious and violent offense," said McKenzie. "Maybe there's one day that he comes in here and he owns up to every part in which he played. Maybe when that day comes he deserves some consideration. I don't think its today. I speak for the victims when I say they don't think its today. That's why I'm here today and I'm asking the board to consider all those things in making a decision to deny his parole," said McKenzie.

Chairman Traughber noted that the board had received two letters in opposition to Orlando's being paroled.

Having once been addicted to methamphetamine, Orlando told the parole board members that he is now clean and sober. "Over the years I've been incarcerated, I've taken these classes (anger management, life skills, and drug classes). I've sobered up," said Orlando. "Over the last eleven years, I've never had any drug offenses. I've passed all my drug screens. I've turned my life over to the Lord. I've concentrated as much as I can on helping my family out from in here. I've realized what I've done wrong. It's something that haunts me everyday. I'm deeply sorry by the pain I've caused Josh's family for my poor judgment and what I've also caused my family because of my poor judgement. I can't describe the pain they're going through because I have a daughter and if something awful happened to my daughter I can't even imagine the pain of that," he said.

This is Orlando's second parole hearing within the last two years. Following the previous hearing on March 7, 2011, Chairman Traughber said that Orlando was declined for two years due to the seriousness of the crime. Orlando also had disciplinary problems (while in prison). The board, at that time, suggested that Orlando enroll and participate in additional programs like anger management and substance abuse and to refrain from any more disciplinary incidents.

While he had no criminal record as a juvenile, Orlando encountered problems with the law as an adult prior to the murder including arrests and convictions for drug offenses along with charges of harassment, domestic assault (later dismissed) obstruction of justice, and several traffic related offenses

Orlando, father of a 16 year old girl, said if he were paroled he would settle in Smithville with his parents, that he would find work, and try to obtain some financial assistance to further his education.

In making parole decisions, board members consider factors such as the seriousness of the offense, time served, victim input, any programs the offender may have completed or disciplinary actions against the offender while incarcerated, etc. Voting ends when four matching votes have been cast, either to parole or not to parole. It should take two weeks to get a decision finalized in this case.

The following story below is an account of the trial of Christopher Nicholas Orlando In April, 2004 as reported by WJLE at that time.

A DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury, in April 2004, found Orlando guilty in the September 2002 killing of 20 year old Joshua Lee Murphy.

Murphy's body was found on Wednesday, September 18, 2002 in a secluded area at the end of Old Eagle Creek Road on Back Bone Ridge in the Laurel Hill Community of DeKalb County.

The motorist who found the body, Larry Young, testified that he was riding down that road when he detected an odor, got out of his vehicle, discovered the body, and then left to alert authorities.

Murphy had been shot several times in the face, legs, chest, and groin by a 12 gauge shotgun. The murder apparently took place on Sunday, September 15, three days before the body was discovered.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department (Sheriff Lloyd Emmons administration) arrested Orlando a few days later and another man, Melvin Eugene Turnbill was picked up in Cave City, Kentucky, where authorities there found a meth lab in his pickup truck. Turnbill was eventually returned to DeKalb County to face the murder charge.

In September 2003, Turnbill, under a negotiated settlement, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court to facilitation of first degree murder in the shooting. Under terms of the plea agreement, Turnbill agreed to testify against Orlando. Facilitation of first degree murder is a Class A felony and Turnbill must serve at least 30% of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Special Agent Bob Krofssik of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (now deceased), testified during the trial that he went to Kentucky to interview Turnbill after the murder. He said Turnbill claimed that while he was present during the shooting, it was Orlando who pulled the trigger.

He said Turnbill had been cooking some methamphetamine on Saturday, September 14 near where the murder took place and that Orlando, Murphy, and others were present. Later Turnbill apparently placed the meth and the meth lab components in his pickup truck and went to the home of his girlfriend, Robin Baker, where he and Orlando spent the night.

Krofssik said Turnbill claimed he became angry the next morning when he discovered the meth was gone and threatened to kill Murphy, who he suspected had stolen it. Orlando apparently tried to calm Turnbill down and agreed to help him find Murphy and the stolen methamphetamine.

Krofssik said Turnbill claimed he and Orlando left in Orlando's car and found Murphy at the home of James Reeves, where Murphy had gone to a party the night before. Turnbill alleged that he stayed in the car while Orlando went inside to talk to Reeves. While there, Orlando apparently found the stolen meth and then got Murphy to go back with him and Turnbill to Baker's home.

Murphy then got in Turnbill's truck and the two of them went back to the area where the meth had been cooked the night before, while Orlando got in his car and went back to the Reeves home to retrieve the stolen meth. Orlando also allegedly picked up a shotgun and went to Aaron Tippin Outdoors (no longer in business) to buy some shotgun shells.

Krofssik said Turnbill claimed that after Orlando arrived at the scene, he (Orlando) got the shotgun out of his car and handed it to Turnbill, who pointed it at Murphy and confronted him about the stolen meth. He said Murphy kept running around the truck in an attempt to hide, but that Orlando took the shotgun from Turnbill and fired twice at Murphy. He said Murphy then turned and ran toward Orlando, knocking him down. Orlando then got up and started after Murphy, shooting him again.

Krofssik said Turnbill alleged that Orlando fired all the shots but that he (Turnbill) carried the shotgun in his pickup truck to the home of Michael Ponder, where he tried to hide the weapon and destroy some of the evidence.

Orlando's attorney, Hilton Conger, contended that it was Turnbill, not Orlando, that had the motive to kill Murphy. He said it was Turnbill's meth that had been stolen, that it was Turnbill who became irate when he learned the drug was missing, that it was Turnbill's shotgun that was used in the killing, that it was Turnbill who tried to hide the weapon, and that it was Turnbill who fled to Kentucky after the murder. Conger said Orlando made no attempt to flee, having gone back home on Sunday night and then to work on Monday, prior to his arrest days later.

Kroffsik said four months after the shooting, in January, 2003 investigators found a spent shotgun shell in the backyard of Orlando's residence. Orlando's girlfriend (at the time) Melissa Farley, claimed to have thrown the shell in the yard after she found it in Orlando's clothes.

Conger questioned Krofssik as to why Turnbill's clothes, worn at the time of the shooting, were not sent to the TBI Crime Lab to be examined for blood spatter. He said if Turnbill had done the shooting and fired at close range, it's likely Murphy's blood would have gotten on Turnbill's clothes.

Krofssik responded that the presence of blood spatter would not have necessarily proven Turnbill did the shooting, only that he was at the crime scene, which Turnbill had already admitted.

Conger also pointed out that in the sworn affidavit signed by Krofssik charging Turnbill with murder, Turnbill admitted to Orlando and others that he (Turnbill) killed Murphy. Conger asked Krofssik why Turnbill was now to be believed that Orlando did the shooting, when he (Turnbill) had already confessed to the killing in that affidavit.

Krofssik admited to Conger that he didn't know for sure who pulled the trigger.

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