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2018-04-11 / Front Page

Former youth minister faces first-degree murder

Audio evidence reveals Gattis confessing to triple homicide
By Ben Orcutt
CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Former youth minister Christopher R. Gattis remains behind bars after three Thanksgiving Day first-degree murder charges against him were certified to a May 21 Chesterfield County Circuit Court grand jury.Christopher R. Gattis Christopher R. Gattis

Gattis, 58, of the 14000 block of Dogwood Ridge Court, is being held without bond in the Riverside Regional Jail in Prince George County while he waits for the grand jury to convene.

Gattis is charged with the Nov. 23 slayings of his wife, Jeanett L. Gattis, 58, his wife’s daughter, Candice L. Kunze, 30, and Kunze’s boyfriend, Andrew E. Buthorn, 36.

Gattis also is charged with three counts of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

On Wednesday morning in General District Court, Judge Matthew D. Nelson certified charges of first-degree murder and use of a firearm in Buthorn’s slaying to the May 21 grand jury after Gattis waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

On Tuesday in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Judge J. David Rigler certified first-degree murder charges and firearms charges in the deaths of Mrs. Gattis and Kunze to the May 21 grand jury following a preliminary hearing.

Gattis is being represented by court-appointed attorney John A. Rockecharlie of the Richmond law firm of Airington, Overholser & Rockecharlie.

Following today’s proceeding, Rockecharlie said Gattis waived his right to a preliminary hearing in General District Court because the commonwealth presented sufficient evidence in Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court for the charges in that court to be certified and there was no need to repeat the process.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys Kenneth M. Chitty and Shawn A. Gobble are prosecuting the case against Gattis. Neither of them commented on the status of the case.

Rockecharlie said that during yesterday’s preliminary hearing in J&D Court, audio from a body camera worn by Officer First Class N.C. Frazier, who was first on the murder scene, was introduced as evidence.

On the tape, Gattis admitted to shooting his wife, stepdaughter and his stepdaughter’s boyfriend, Rockecharlie said.

“When asked why he did it,” Rockecharlie said, “He said, ‘They were ganging up on me.’”

Rockecharlie said Gattis is contemplating arguing a “self-defense” strategy at trial and therefore they did not put on evidence at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.

“Self-defense is an affirmative defense that the defendant has to prove and we think the Circuit Court is the appropriate place to do that,” Rockecharlie said.

Mrs. Gattis was shot once in the back, Rockecharlie said, while Kunze was shot “six or seven times” in various parts of her body and Buthorn was shot three times, including once in his torso, once in his back and once in another part of his body.

All three victims, who lived at the residence with Gattis, were shot with a .40-caliber Glock pistol, with all of the rounds coming from a single magazine clip, Rockecharlie said.

Police found the gun on a table just inside the front door of the residence, Rockecharlie said.

After shooting the victims, Gattis called his home alarm service and asked them to have the police come to his residence, Rockecharlie said.

Police were called to the home at 11:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving and upon arriving, Officer Frazier found Buthorn deceased in the front yard and Mrs. Gattis and her daughter deceased inside the home.

Gattis, who was sitting on the front porch, was arrested without incident.

Rockecharlie said the charges against Gattis could qualify as a capital murder case and he added that the commonwealth is still deliberating on whether to enhance the charges and move in that direction.

Gattis served as middle and high school youth ministries coordinator at Grace Lutheran Church on Harrowgate Road, according to the church’s website.

 Arkuie Williams, state administrator for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia, has said that the cause of death for Gattis and Buthorn was a single gunshot wound to the back and for Kunze, multiple gunshot wounds to the back.

The Gattises graduated from Colonial Heights High School in 1977.

Jeanette Gattis worked as a receptionist for Napier Realtors in Powhatan.

Online records for Chesterfield General District Court show that Gattis was charged with profanely cursing/public intoxication in 2010, with the charge waived after he prepaid a $25 fine and $82 in court costs.

Online Chesterfield Circuit Court records indicate that Gattis appealed a 2012 misdemeanor assault and battery charge and the case was dismissed. He was ordered to pay $163 in court cost. 

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