Caldwell sentenced

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By John Barnhart

Dennis Caldwell, 56, will spend 22 years in prison for shooting his brother, Glenn Caldwell, 62, and his nephew, Michael Caldwell, 36. Dennis Caldwell had entered a no contest plea, on Aug. 15, to two counts of aggravated malicious wounding and two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. The plea was entered one year to the day of the shootings. He had shot both men multiple times with a .45 cal. semiautomatic pistol.

Both victims testified at the sentencing hearing, held Tuesday in Bedford County Circuit Court. Michael Caldwell, walked to the stand with an obvious limp. One leg appeared to be shorter than the other. Glenn Caldwell must use a cane to get around.

Michael Caldwell said that he and his father were working on a carport at his father's home, next door to his uncle's place. While they were working, Dennis Caldwell came out of the house and began playing loud rap music from his car's sound system. Glenn Caldwell went over and asked him to turn it down and the two started to bicker.

"He [Dennis Caldwell] started cussing," Michael Caldwell testified. "Next thing I knew he reached into his car and got a gun."

Glenn Caldwell ran but a shot to the leg broke his femur and put him on the ground. Michael Caldwell testified that he saw his father hit in the left leg as he was running.

"He [Dennis Caldwell] came over, started cussing and put two more rounds into him," Michael Caldwell stated.

Michael Caldwell was shot in the knee and Tamara Dennis, a paramedic called to the scene, testified that he had a dime sized wound on both sides of the knee. He had also been shot in the chest. The bullet went through both lungs, causing both to collapse.

He called his girlfriend, Sherry Crawford, who called 911. Caldwell testified that he was in pain and having trouble breathing.

"I ran back to the carport and he shot me," testified Glenn Caldwell.

"He done tore both of my legs up so I couldn't move," he went on to say. "I thought sure I was going to die."

Michael Caldwell spent nearly a month in a hospital intensive care unit, followed by multiple surgeries. He said he still has trouble using his left leg and breathing problems. Glenn Caldwell also had multiple surgeries and had to wear a colostomy bag for some time. Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Krantz said that one on his wounds was an abdominal wound — the bullet passed completely through him, damaging multiple organs. He has a metal rod in one leg due to the broken femur.

Kevin Bailey and Andrew Childress, Dennis Caldwell's defense team, admitted the facts of the case as presented by the prosecution but argued that there were mitigating circumstances. Caldwell suffered a head injury in an auto accident when he was 19 and and has been on Social Security disability ever since. He also has a low IQ, on the borderline of being mentally retarded and is functionally illiterate. While he was deemed mentally competent to stand trial, they argued that he should get a sentence on the short end of the sentencing guidelines for the his case, which ran from a low of eight years to a high of 19 years, followed by intensive treatment for mental illness.

Bailey and Childress put Caldwell on the witness stand. After the hearing they said they did that in order to let Judge James Updike hear for himself the rambling, disordered thinking that they had been hearing. Caldwell provided that, but also launched into an angry tirade at the victims. Krantz said that this probably damaged his case

When Caldwell pled no contest in August, Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Krantz had agreed to seek a sentence of no more than 22 years. Krantz asked Judge Updike for 22 years of active prison time.

"These victims were shot in cold blood," Krantz said, arguing that Caldwell felt he had been wronged and decided to set himself up as "judge and executioner."

Krantz also said that Caldwell's behavior from the stand gives evidence that he would do it again if he had the opportunity. He said that Caldwell needs to be isolated from society.

"Dennis Lloyd Caldwell chose to take the law into his own hands," Krantz said.

Judge Updike agreed with Krantz. He sentenced Dennis Caldwell to 25 years on each aggravated malicious wounding charge, suspended after serving 14 years. Both of these sentences will be served concurrently. He also sentence Caldwell to three years for the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and five years for a subsequent use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. These two sentences will be served consecutively. This results in a total active prison sentence of 22 years. Upon release, Caldwell will have five years of supervised probation and must cooperate with all mental health requirements recommended by his probation officer. He is also barred from contact with his victims.

Judge Updike also ordered Caldwell to pay $1,000 into the state restitution fund.

"I do not find that restitution is a practical matter," Updike said, noting that Caldwell is currently unemployed and won't be employed 20 years from now.