A man who pleaded guilty to shooting another when he was a teenager in a dispute over a girl is headed to prison for the next five and a half years.
Matthew Elijah Nowlin, now 20, whose address is listed in court records as both Patrick Springs and Martinsville, had pleaded guilty in February to malicious wounding, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, breaking and entering a dwelling with intent to commit a felony (amended from breaking and entering a dwelling armed to commit a felony) and misdemeanor brandishing a firearm (amended from use of a firearm in the commission of a felony) in an incident on May 28, 2017, when Newlin was 18.
And on Wednesday Henry County Circuit Court Judge David V. Williams sentenced Nowlin to 18 years in prison and 12 months in jail, or a total of 19 years of incarceration. Williams ordered that Nowlin serve a total of 5.5 years, and he suspended the rest of the sentence under conditions that include indefinite, supervised probation and payment of $1,821 in restitution with interest.
Court records and testimony at previous hearings describe how Nowlin found out that a 15-year-old girl he had dated was spending the night at the home of another teenage boy, Macrus Lee Spencer, then 18, of 545 Grand Lake Dr. in Ridgeway.
Nowlin broke into that home, hit Spencer, then went to a car and got a revolver.
At this point, according to accounts Nowlin and Spencer gave police, Nowlin then came back and stuck a gun through a broken window pane in the front door, firing multiple times. The glass had been shattered several days before, and a baking pan had been taped there to try and make the door secure.
Spencer was shot once in the hand, once in the arm, and a bullet grazed his back. He was hospitalized with those wounds.
The girl, who is not being identified because of her age, said that Nowlin also tried to shoot her, but there were no more bullets in the gun.
When the gun made a clicking sound, Nowlin then left the scene, the victims testified.
Henry County Sheriff’s deputies later stopped Nowlin’s vehicle on Carver Road and took him into custody.
At the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Nowlin’s lawyer, Michael McPheeters, called several character witnesses and gave the judge several letters on Nowlin’s behalf.
James Houchins, an older cousin of Nowlin’s, said he was a good child growing up, very respectful. He said he thinks Nowlin has a lot of potential.
Lock Boyce, a veterinarian in Patrick Springs, testified that Nowlin spent a lot of time with Boyce’s sons when he was growing up. Boyce described him as talkative, outgoing, having a good sense of humor, quick-witted, very smart. Boyce said Nowlin has a lot of support in the community and a lot of family support.
“Matthew has a lot going for him,” said Boyce, who is a member of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.
He said he had employed Nowlin in the past, that he was an excellent worker who got along well with other employees and that he “would certainly employ him” again after his release from incarceration.
Josanne Bryson, Nowlin’s grandmother, testified that Nowlin “took it hard” after his parents separated when he was roughly 11 years old. She said she didn’t know when he started receiving special education services in school and that he eventually got a GED.
She described him as “smart, intelligent. He has a witty sense about him. Very lovable.”
She said after he is released from incarceration, she knows he can be a good and productive citizen.
“He’s got a lot of people praying for him,” she said.
McPheeters argued that Nowlin had a number of mental health issues and at the time of the shooting was not on medication. McPheeters said that at one point in the judicial process, after he was charged, Nowlin underwent a mental competency evaluation and was found incompetent to stand trial.
Nowlin was sent to Central State mental hospital, treated for a number of mental health conditions and restored to competency. He is now on medication and doing much better, McPheeters said.
He argued that at the time of the shooting, Nowlin “had a difficult time controlling his impulses,” but that now his medications help.
One of the prosecutors, Henry County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Withers, argued that “Mr. Nowlin shot a man.”
He said that Nowlin should not have been at the scene and that he never should have introduced a gun.
Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.