By Bobby Bordelon
The Greenbrier County Circuit Court met to hear the cases against Thomas Dunbar and Amanda Lea Serreno for their alleged role in the murder of Chasity F. Hamm. While a potential deal between the prosecutors and the defense seems possible for Serreno, Dunbar’s case was continued to allow the defense more time to review the ample evidence.
In January 2018, Greenbrier County Sheriff Bruce Sloan and Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via called a press conference, announcing that the investigation into the murder of Shaela Lynn McCoy Abren led to the discovery of the murder of Chastity Faye Hamm. Abren was found on Anthony Road near Blue Bend behind an uninhabited house around January 18, 2018. During the investigation on Saturday, January 20, the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Office discovered a second body in “a shallow grave in a wooded, mountainous area of the national forest property near Blue Bend.” The subsequent investigation led to the indictments against Dunbar and Hamm.
“[Dunbar] and [Serreno] attempted to slay, kill, and murder one Chasity F. Hamm by administering to [Hamm], intravenously, a combination of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, and insulin, with the intention of killing Hamm,” reads the indictment.
Serreno was also charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempt to kill or injure by poison, and concealment of a deceased human body. The case against her continued in Tuesday’s hearing, were the possibility for a pre-trial resolution seemed possible.
“The parties have had extensive discussions over the past several weeks, specifically the last couple of days. We’re optimistic a resolution is within our reach,” explained Via.
This was further supported by defense attorney Terri Helmick.
“We are in negotiations at this point and we need to meet with our client to have some significant discussions about the meetings we’ve had with Mr. Via,” said Helmick. “That’s where we are right now.”
A further hearing was set for later this month, allowing negotiations to continue.
Dunbar is currently serving a sentence for his role in a murder; in February 2019, Dunbar plead guilty to the murder of Shaela Lynn McCoy Abren after a deal with the Greenbrier County Prosecutor’s Office. Dunbar’s current incarceration is the result of the plea deal, where he received both a life sentence and the mercy of the court, allowing him to apply for parole after serving for 15 years.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Dunbar waived his speedy trial rights for this term of court – speedy trial rights allow someone charged with a crime to have a trial within three terms of court after the charge, typically about one year. The waiving of speedy trial rights to better prepare for trial is common in Greenbrier County.
This time was partially needed due to a review of the evidence. Defense attorney Richard Gunnoe explained he needed more time to review the discovery and evidence, including between 40 to 50 CDs worth of data. It would also allow Gunnoe more time to conference with Dunbar, a task complicated by COVID-19.
Dunbar’s case was continued for 60 days into October, allowing more time for any potential motions.