Teacher's charge could be upgraded to murder

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By Beth Braden

JACKSBORO—A grand jury will be asked to indict special education teacher Lisa Estelle Elliott on second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of her live-in boyfriend following a preliminary hearing on Tuesday in Campbell County’s General Sessions Court.

Elliott was arrested on Feb. 2 after police say she shot and killed Larry David Champlin, with a .38-caliber revolver during a drunken domestic dispute. She was initially charged with criminal homicide, and has since been released on a $150,000 bond.

Her attorney, Mike Hatmaker, asked the charge be lessened to criminally negligent homicide, a class-E felony with a maximum prison sentence of six years. The state, however, provided enough probable cause to ask for a second-degree murder indictment, according to Judge Joe Ayers.

A preliminary hearing on Tuesday revealed several more details about the case — including variances in Elliott’s statements and testimony that the victim had been texting with his ex-wife as recently as 40 minutes before he was shot.

Campbell County Sheriff’s Office Deputy James McCall was one of the first responders to the scene. He told the court that he, as well as deputies David Wormsley, Joshua Jeffers and Joshua Humphrey, initially encountered Elliott’s daughter, Diana Elliott, when they arrived at the home at 296 King David Lane in the Elk Valley community. Diana Elliott told police that her mother was in the bedroom.

McCall said he could hear somebody counting as he and the other deputies approached the bedroom.

“As we entered the room, we seen her laying over a male subject [and] appeared to be giving him CPR,” McCall said.

Elliott, who was clutching a small copy of the New Testament, frequently wiped away tears as McCall testified.

When Elliott was asked to leave the bedroom that evening, McCall believed Champlin was already dead.

“Just from the neck up was a bluish, purplish color,” he said.

Initial autopsy results reveal that Champlin died after a close-range gunshot from a .38 caliber revolver that pierced his neck, traveled behind his collarbone, nicked his jugular vein and traveled through his left lung before coming to rest just below his shoulder blade.

Elliott’s statements about what happened that night do not entirely match the evidence, according to CCSO Det. John Long.

In the initial call to 911, Elliott told dispatchers she put the gun away, according to Long. The weapon was later recovered from the bedroom closet.

During questioning, Elliott told the detective she did not put the gun away, that Champlin threw it after he was shot, Long testified.

Additionally, the trajectory of the bullet through Champlin’s body suggests that he was shot from a bent-over position, not that she shot him as he stood upright, or as they struggled while standing, Long said.

Elliott initially told police that she and Champlin were fighting over control of the gun when it went off.

“The autopsy reports and trajectory of the wounds are inconsistent [with what she said],” Long told the court.

Investigators say both Elliott and Champlin had been drinking the night of the shooting, and had been fighting since the previous evening. Champlin had at least some contact with his ex-wife that night.

A screenshot from a cell phone reveals that at 4:15 a.m., Champlin sent his ex-wife, Karen Champlin, a message that said, “Death is sure…I’m running.”

She responded with “What happened?”

The last message came at 4:41 a.m. saying simply “He is drunk.”

Elliott admitted to sending the final text message, Long said. It was unclear if she sent the text message before or after Champlin was shot.

Deputies were dispatched to the scene just 15 minutes after the last text message.

After he was shot, Champlin reportedly said, “You shot me, b----,” and then stumbled to the bathroom and came back to the bed, where he collapsed face down and vomited, according to police testimony. Elliott then rolled him onto the floor where she began CPR.

The grand jury will consider the case tomorrow. If indicted and convicted, second-degree murder carries a prison sentence of 15 to 20 years.