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Munday gets life

David Eugene Munday was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting of West Virginia State Police Trooper R.J. "Bobby" Elswick

David Eugene Munday was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting of West Virginia State Police Trooper R.J. "Bobby" Elswick

February 03, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

David Eugene Munday was sentenced Monday to serve life in prison for shooting a West Virginia State Police trooper in the head more than a year ago, and will serve additional time in prison for related charges.

Before Circuit Court Judge David Sanders announced the sentence, Trooper R.J. "Bobby" Elswick, the trooper who was wounded, spoke, as did Elswick's wife, father and a friend, Sgt. Eric Burnett.

Terri Elswick responded to a comment made in court by Robert Barrat, one of Munday's defense attorneys, that the case had been blown out of proportion because a state trooper was involved.

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"Blown out of proportion? You shot my husband in the head," she said to Munday.

Terri Elswick said a life sentence was not enough. "I think you should be hung out in my backyard and let the birds eat you away," she said.

When Bobby Elswick stood up slowly from his seat, he asked Munday more than once to turn and face him. Munday, sitting beside his two attorneys, did not.

"He won't even turn around and look here. That's how brave he is," said Elswick's father, Joe. "He belongs put away for this right here," Joe Elswick said, motioning toward his son.

"Right here sits a real man, police officer or not. I don't know what that is over there," he said, meaning Munday.

Burnett spoke last, saying his best friend's family "went through hell" because of one bullet Munday fired from his rifle on Oct. 10, 2002. The bullet hit Elswick just above his left ear. Fragments remain in his brain.

"They're strong people and you're a piece of crap," Burnett said.

After listening to the statements, Sanders called a recess and spent more than 35 minutes in his chambers.

When he returned, Sanders said he reviewed the pre-sentence report compiled by probation officers, post-trial motions and the victim's statements. He then asked Munday to stand.

Because of the violence on that October night and the consequences, Sanders said the case was one of the most egregious to come before him.

Combined with Munday's violent past, the shooting proved Munday to be a danger to society - "a time bomb waiting to destroy a life," Sanders said.

Sanders announced how much time Munday will serve for each of the 21 counts for which he was found guilty by a jury in October, 2003.

Munday was sentenced to serve one to 15 years in prison for each of the three felony counts of burglary he faced and one to three years for each of the four counts of attempted murder.

Those sentences will be served consecutively.

The life sentence - which stemmed from one count of unlawful assault of a police officer - was possible after a jury in January found that Munday was the same person convicted of two separate charges in Maryland that warranted prison time. Under the state's "three strikes" law, the life sentence was automatic.

Prison time for the other charges, some of which are misdemeanors, will be served at the same time as the longer sentences. Munday was ordered to serve five years for each of five counts of wanton endangerment; one year for each of two counts of brandishing; 100 days for each of three counts of discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling; one year for destruction of property; six months for assault; and one year for fleeing from police on foot.

Elswick was shot as he and three other troopers, including Burnett, stood on Harper Lane, a gravel road in Hedgesville. The officers were discussing how to handle a possible hostage situation that reportedly involved Munday.

As they talked, Munday walked out of a wooded area, raised his .22 Magnum Marlin bolt-action rifle and fired one shot. Troopers John Droppleman and Robert Copson returned fire and followed Munday into the woods, eventually taking him into custody.

Although doctors initially warned Elswick's family that he probably would die, five days after the shooting Elswick coughed and then moved a finger.

He continues to recover at home and has said he wants to return to work.

Although the life sentence was granted with mercy, meaning Munday will be eligible for parole, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said the consecutive sentences mean Munday probably will not see a parole board for 27 years.

She said the life sentence was important because it means Munday cannot harm anyone else. Unfortunately, she said, nothing that happens in a courtroom will change what happened to Elswick.

"I can't make him whole and that's the frustrating part," she said.

Margaret Gordon, Munday's second defense attorney, said at the end of the hearing that she and Barrat wanted to express their best wishes to the Elswicks.

Munday declined to give a statement in court.

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