St. Thomas man sentenced to prison for fatally shooting wife

March 03, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Chambersburg Hospital and the family of the late Kristin Runyon are accepting applications for the first Kristin Runyon Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship can be used for tuition expenses.
Submitted photo

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Christopher T. Jones was sentenced Thursday in Franklin County (Pa.) Court to a minimum of six years in state prison for the Feb. 25, 2010, shooting death of his wife in their St. Thomas Township, Pa., home.

In January, Jones, 31, entered a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter before Judge Shawn D. Meyers.

Jones shot his wife, Kristin Runyon, but said he thought she was an intruder in the 5 a.m. darkness. In their statements to the judge, her family argued Jones was angered that his wife of one year wanted a divorce.

"On Valentine's Day in 2009, we gave Jones her hand in marriage. In February, one year later, he gave her back to me in a body bag," said Barb Runyon, the victim's mother.

Jones did not offer an apology or show remorse, and he restricted access to the 27-year-old's belongings for several months after her death, the Runyons said.

When he addressed Meyers, Jones initially said he couldn't look at his wife's mother, father and brother.

"I know my wife, and I know how she felt toward me. ... I don't know how you think I'd do something like that to your daughter" on purpose, he said.

Jones, whose crying during the hearing intensified at several mentions of the couple's potential to have children, did turn to the Runyons toward the end of his comments.

"I just want you to know I love my wife with all my heart," he said.

Barb Runyon said Kristin — her "best friend, daughter and confidant" — told her Jones was angry she didn't change her last name, and he ignored her birthday. The woman hadn't been wearing her wedding ring, according to her mother.

Meyers sentenced Jones to six to 14 years in prison with a fine of $5,000 and several court-related costs. He utilized a sentencing enhancement for deadly weapons and also honored a Runyon family request that Jones be prohibited from having firearms upon his release.

The maximum penalty for the first-degree felony was 20 years and/or a $25,000 fine, Meyers said.

In court, District Attorney Matt Fogal said the Pennsylvania State Police investigation did not yield evidence that Jones had a specific intent to kill his wife. Fogal said not being able to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt led to the voluntary manslaughter charge.

"This charge is correct. The commonwealth is not in the business of overreaching. ... It is improper and unethical to do so," he said.

Included in the state police investigation were a polygraph test, two interviews with Jones, a re-enactment of events, consistent statements from the defendant and DNA evidence the couple had sex a few hours before the shooting, according to Fogal.

"There was one shot fired," Fogal said. "In the 911 tape recording, the defendant sounded appropriately emotional and admitted he was the one who had shot Kristin."

Investigators checked phone records for calls to attorneys, reviewed financial records, pored over e-mails, looked into life insurance beneficiaries and read Valentine's Day cards, all without finding evidence to support the divorce claims from the victim's immediate family, Fogal said.

The district attorney said even though Jones accepted responsibility, he should have shouted out a warning to the supposed intruder or checked to ensure his wife was still in bed.

"No one knows truly how they're going to react in the situation I had," Jones said.

The Runyon family said they don't believe the version of events presented by the defendant.

"He displayed a blatant disregard for human life and shot Kristin to death," said Sam Runyon, the victim's father.

The Herald-Mail Articles