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Kuhns sentenced in Dockery death


(Updated May 13, 5:00 p.m.)

A jury has found a Hiddenite man guilty of voluntary manslaughter in a trial this week in Alexander County Superior Court.

The State had charged Donald Joseph "Joe" Kuhns, of Hiddenite, with first degree murder in the killing of Johnny Dockery, also of Hiddenite, on October 2, 2014, at Kuhns' home. Kuhns was then age 55 and Dockery was age 47.

After hearing evidence earlier this month, closing arguments were held Thursday morning, May 12, then the jury was sent to deliberate Thursday afternoon. Having not reached a verdict Thursday evening, Judge Lynn Gullett directed the jury to adjourn. Court reconvened Friday with more deliberation. The jury returned with a verdict to Judge Gullett on Friday afternoon, about 4 p.m.

Kuhns was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced by Judge Gullett to 73 months (6 years, 1 month) to 100 months (8 years, 4 months) active sentence, with 589 days credit for time served prior to the trial.

Attorney Jay Vannoy of Wilkes County served as defense attorney, and prosecution was handled by Assistant District Attorneys Ben Faulkenberry and Elizabeth Floyd.

During the closing arguments, it was explained to the jury the possible paths of first degree murder, second degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter.

Both the defense and the prosecution noted that Kuhns and Dockery were intoxicated at the time of the shooting, which occurred in front of Kuhns' home in the Johnny Walker Mobile Home Park, off Old Mountain Road in Hiddenite. Dockery had been in the trailer park multiple times that evening and he and Kuhns had exchanged words. Law officers had been called to the mobile home park several times that evening to convince Dockery to leave the premises. However, Kuhns had asked officers not to charge Dockery with any crime, just to send him home. Dockery lived in the vicinity, about 1500 feet away on Ervin Lane, said Vannoy.

Vannoy said that Kuhns stated that Dockery had come back about 10 p.m. and verbally threatened Kuhns, who was there at home with son, George Kuhns, and friend Kenneth Nunnery. Nunnery was at the base of the porch steps, George Kuhns was standing in the yard not very far from Dockery. Kuhns went inside the residence and came back out with a .32 caliber pistol, but stood on the porch with his arms folded, said Faulkenberry. Kuhns claimed that Dockery moved quickly towards the porch, which is elevated about the yard about 6 feet, 5 inches. Then Kuhns shot Dockery once in the head, and went back inside the home. Other persons in the trailer park called 911.

Kuhns told the court he acted in self defense, and wept about the shooting on the witness stand, according to both prosecution and defense statements.


Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Patricia FoddrellSubmitted: 5/19/2016
He wept because he's sober now, because it said someone else called 911 that night, not him. SMH!!!!

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