Whitesburg KY

Shooting case sent to grand jury

Charges against an Ermine man accused of shooting the boyfriend of his estranged wife have been referred to the Letcher County Grand Jury for further action.

Special Letcher District Judge Daniel Sparks ruled last week there is probable cause to believe that 33- year-old James Edward Nichols shot Paul Richard Fields in the face with ordered the case sent to the grand jury and increased bail for Nichols to $25,000 cash.

Kentucky State Police Detective Randy Combs testified during a preliminary hearing on Nov. 25 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 allterrain 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 remains hospitalized at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., where he has undergone surgery 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.

Nichols is charged with first-degree assault, first-degree burglary, three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Nichols was represented at the hearing by William Lewis Collins, directing attorney of the public defender’s office in Hazard.

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