Unicoi County man dies 10 months after arrest in wife's shooting death

Sheriff Mike Hensley said Norman McKinney told investigators the shooting happened accidentally during an argument over money he had set aside to give to a church.

According to Hensley, McKinney told an investigator he had accused his wife of taking money, and had pointed a gun at her and threatened to shoot her when she slapped the gun, causing it to fire.

McKinneys charge was upgraded to first-degree murder on the day of his wifes death. On the Sheriffs Department request, Sessions Court Judge David Shults ordered his transport to DeBerry later that week.

In requesting the transport, the Sheriffs Department cited McKinneys need for health care beyond the capability of the county jail. Multiple sources close to the case who asked to remain anonymous stated McKinney had a lengthy history of dementia.

Shults appointed the Public Defenders Office to represent McKinney on the murder charge, but ordered a mental evaluation to determine if he was capable of borrowing money against his home to pay for his own attorney.

According to Curtis, what was expected to be a lengthy evaluation of McKinneys mental and physical condition was still underway at DeBerry in March when a Unicoi County Grand Jury returned an indictment that reduced his charge to second-degree murder.

Curtis said Friday that at the time of McKinneys death, the physical and mental evaluation was continuing at DeBerry, a secure health care facility contracted by the Tennessee Department of Correction. He was awaiting a transport to the state-run Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga for psychological testing.

We were in the process of getting the evaluations done with the understanding it was very likely he would either be found not guilty by reason of insanity or not competent to stand trial, he said.

Without elaborating on McKinneys physical condition, Curtis said he was definitely suffering from an illness and the cause of his death was natural.

This kind of developed into a full circle of tragedy. Its been sad from the second it started until the time it ended. The whole thing was absolutely terrible, Curtis said.

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