By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — A rural Timewell man was sentenced Thursday to five years in the Department of Corrections for the shooting death of his wife in November 2010.
Judge Diane Lagoski handed down the sentence to David L. Dunn, 62.
Dunn was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter during a May trial. The charge stemmed from the Nov. 9, 2010, shooting death of his wife, Christine, 56. The shooting occurred as the couple were at their trailer in rural Timewell. Christine Dunn was shot in the head by a .308-caliber rifle.
"If I could do anything or say anything to bring Chrissy back, I would," Dunn said through tears before Lagoski handed down the sentence. "I just want Chrissy back. I don't know what else to say."
Dunn's attorney, Denny Woodworth, had asked Lagoski to consider probation for Dunn. Woodworth said what happened was merely an accident. He also pointed to a number of health problems Dunn has and said that Dunn wasn't a threat to the general public.
"A lot of people lost in this case," Woodworth said. "Incarcerating Mr. Dunn will not bring Chrissy back. ... Mr. Dunn, like Chrissy's family, is being punished every day because he has to live with this every day for the rest of his life."
Brown County State's Attorney Mark Vincent pushed for time in the DOC, asking Lagoski for an eight-year sentence. He introduced two pieces of evidence for Lagoski to consider at sentencing. Dunn was arrested for brandishing a handgun in a 1985 incident outside a Beardstown bar. Vincent also played a videotape interview with Dunn's former wife, Barbara Duncan. In that testimony, which was played in open court, Duncan said Dunn pointed a gun at her "three or four times" during their 25-year marriage, which ended in 1999. She also alleged that he hit her.
Dunn denied ever remembering pointing a gun at Duncan or hitting her.
"I do remember putting my fists through the wall a couple of times, but I never hit Barb," Dunn said.
Vincent was adamant Dunn do prison time on the charge.
"This is a terrible thing, but we do need to send a message that when handling guns in the presence of others, you need to use more care than what Mr. Dunn did that evening," Vincent said before asking for an eight-year sentence.
While announcing her decision, Lagoski said she couldn't get away from the case.
"This is Brown County," she said. "In Brown County, people own guns. People shoot guns. It's a fact of life. It's also a very small county. Because it's so small, this has been a high-profile case. I've been thinking about this sentence since the trial ended. Every time I left my house, I had to try not to hear someone's opinion on it."
It took the jury six hours to deliberate before it found Dunn guilty. Thursday's sentencing hearing lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours.
"I hesitate to use the term accident," Lagoski said. "It was more than that. ... Mr. Dunn played fast and loose with guns. He handled them a lot and didn't handle them with care. He shot his wife in a reckless manner."
One of Christine Dunn's daughters made the trip from New Zealand to read a victim's impact statement. Clare Heine of Nelson, New Zealand, also read statements from two of her siblings. She also wasn't ready to accept that what happened was an accident.
"It's not an accident as far as I'm concerned, not at all" Heine said. "She was two days from leaving to go back to Australia to live. It's upsetting that she was two days away from coming home.
"He wasn't living with her. I don't know about a divorce. She wasn't happy in the relationship. She was coming home without him."
Heine said Christine Dunn, a native of New Zealand, came to America after meeting Dunn on the Internet.
"She sold everything she had to come here for a new life," Heine said.
Vincent was satisfied with Lagoski's decision.
"I think it was well-reasoned and appropriate," he said. "It wasn't quite what we were asking for. Due to the seriousness of the offense, a sentence to the Department of Corrections was in order in this case. The range is acceptable. The judge did make all of the necessary findings and considered everything she needed to. I can't really argue with it."
Christine Dunn's family also accepted the decision.
"There wasn't enough evidence to prove that (murder) was the case," Heine said. "This is better than nothing."
Dunn had been free on a $150,000 cash bond. He was taken into custody after the verdict and transferred to the Schuyler County Jail in Rushville.
Editior's note: This story has been updated since its original posting.