Whitesburg KY

Man admits shooting estranged wife’s beau

An Ermine man pleaded guilty this week to shooting the boyfriend of his estranged wife last November.

James Edward Nichols, 34, entered a plea of guilty in Letcher Circuit Court on Nov. 30 to charges that he shot Paul Richard Fields in the face on Nov. 18, 2009.

As part of the plea agreement, Nichols will serve five years’ imprisonment on each count of first-degree assault, third-degree burglary, three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment and second-degree persistent felony offender for a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Fields requested that the firstdegree assault charge be designated as being committed while under extreme emotional disturbance.

The agreement also sets that a fine of $1,000 and a judgment of $25,000 be entered against Nichols for compensation to Fields for “injuries, pain and suff ering.” Three- thousand dollars of that is to be paid to the Letcher Circuit Clerk before final sentencing, with an additional $2,000 to be paid on or before July 1.

As part of the agreement, “the clerk shall note in a conspicuous manner in all databases involving the instant proceeding that the instant plea agreement was specifically requested by Fields.”

Kentucky State Police Detective Randy Combs testifi ed during a preliminary hearing held last November that Nichols made two phone calls to Fields and his estranged wife, Tabitha Nichols, three hours before the shooting occurred.

Combs said Nichols used his mother Wanda Hubbard’s cellular phone to call Fields’s cellular phone at 8:08 p.m. and 8:10 p.m. on Nov. 17. Combs said Tabitha Nichols spoke with her husband when the calls were made.

“She stated that Mr. Nichols called and informed her ‘Now I know where you are staying, I know where you are,’” Combs testified. “She told him to leave her alone. At some point in the conversation he said, ‘I know where you are and I’m going to come up there.’ And she said, ‘Go ahead.’”

Combs said police were not called after Nichols placed the two phone calls. He said an emergency protective order intended to keep Nichols away from his wife had expired.

Combs also testified that Nichols borrowed his mother’s Honda all-terrain vehicle to travel more than seven miles from her residence on Craft’s Colly to Susan Cook Drive in West Whitesburg. Combs said around 11 p.m. that night, Nichols kicked open the front door of a singlewide trailer being rented by Fred Eversole and pointed a Marlin bolt-action .22-caliber rifle in the general direction of four people playing cards at a small kitchen table before he narrowed in on Fields. Combs said it was not clear if the trailer door was locked, but that witnesses said the door “violently sprung open.”

Combs said Nichols shot Fields one time in the upper lip below the right nostril. Fields underwent surgery at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., to repair his upper palate and remove part of his jaw.

Combs said six live rounds of ammunition were left in the gun. He said that Tabitha Nichols and Eversole took the gun away from Nichols and restrained him until police arrived at the scene.

Combs said Letcher County Sheriff ’s Deputy Mike Burton arrested Nichols, and that Nichols later admitted in a statement to Burton that he had shot Fields.

Combs said Nichols appeared to be cooperative and calm when he spoke to him while Nichols was seated in the back of Burton’s cruiser. Combs said Nichols smelled of alcohol and was carrying three cigarette lighters and a cap from a Bud Light beer bottle.

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