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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Sheriff's office: Carter woman's gunshot wound apparently self-inflicted

July 20th, 2011 1:41 pm by John Thompson

ELIZABETHTON — Carter County Sheriff’s Department investigators said the evidence in the Tuesday evening shooting of a woman in the Jenkins Hollow section was that the shooting was self inflicted, but the investigation is continuing.
The investigators had not yet interviewed Judith Church, 49, 2610 Louise St., Johnson City, since she underwent surgery at Johnson City Medical Center Tuesday night. They plan to conduct the interview as soon as she is strong enough.
Church made the call to 911 shortly after 8 p.m. Investigators said she told the dispatcher she was shot, not that someone had shot her. Church was able to give the dispatcher her location as 322 Sgt. Melton Circle, a private drive connecting to Jenkins Hollow Road. Shortly after that the dispatcher lost connection with Church.
Responding officers found a tiny camper trailer. They knocked on the door and did not get a response. When officers looked inside, they saw a woman lying on the kitchen floor. Officers said she was lying flat on her back and a large amount of blood was on the shirt she was wearing. They said she was unconscious with shallow breathing.
Paramedics arrived a short time later and started emergency treatment. She was then transported out of Jenkins Hollow to U.S. Highway 19E, where a landing area was established for an emergency medical helicopter.
The officers found a stainless steel Bryco Arms. .380-caliber pistol laying on the floor of the bedroom and several blood stains on the bed. Investigator Todd Hamm said a bullet had passed through the mattress to the floor. The phone was found to be off the hook and the caller ID was still on the 911 number.
There were two men who were building a house near the camper. They were identified as the property owner, Steven E. Melton, and his brother, Glen Melton. The brothers said they had been inside the half-built house with a radio playing and were hammering nails and did not hear the shot. They said they only became aware something was wrong when they saw the police cars converge on the trailer.
Steven Melton said Church was a friend and that she had been staying in the camper for about three weeks. He said the gun found inside was his.
Melton said Church had a history of mental illness and had been to the Watauga Mental Health Department that day to obtain medication. Melton said she had been suffering from stomach pains and kidney stones and had been to the emergency room at Sycamore Shoals Hospital twice during the past week.
Melton said when he left to work on the house he found Church was sitting on the porch smoking and she did not seem to be angry or upset. He said there was no other indication or sign she might harm herself.

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