The man who deputies say shot a woman in the face, killing her and her unborn child and leaving distraught family members who didn’t get a chance to say good-bye, faced charges in court on Thursday morning.
Thomas Christopher McDowell, 35, of 42 Badger Drive in Fieldale appeared briefly in Henry County General District Court for a hearing on charges of second-degree murder, malicious assault where the victim is injured, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony-first offense and possession of a weapon by a violent felon.
McDowell, who has a criminal history, was arrested Tuesday night in connection with the death of Krystal Anne McReynolds, 34, of McKinley Drive in Bassett, who was shot in the face Tuesday night and died the following day. Police found her lying in the yard of a home at 60 Fourth St. in Fieldale.
“I was the one who called it in,” said a neighbor who refused to identify himself to the Bulletin. “I heard the shot and called 9-1-1.”
The Henry County Sheriff’s Office said the call came in at 9:48 p.m., and officers arrived at 9:52 p.m.
“When officers got there, she [McReynolds] was speaking with them [officers],” Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said. “The severity of her injuries were not recognized — she was communicating, talking … and then the child dies, and now we find she has life-threatening injuries.”
Perry would not speculate about how McReynolds’ health declined resulting in her death nearly 24 hours later, but he did say he felt confident an autopsy being performed on the unborn child at the Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke would provide the answers and likely result in additional charges.
McReynolds was taken to Sovah-Martinsville and then transported to Carillion Hospital in Roanoke. She was determined to have been four to five months pregnant when the unborn child passed away, according to the HCSO.
As a result of the communication between McReynolds and officers on the scene, “McDowell was identified as a suspect as arrested that night,” Perry said.
McDowell was not there when officers arrived, and Perry said he was unsure exactly where the arrest was made.
Family members appeared not to know McReynolds was pregnant.
“Our mother [McReynolds] and our unborn baby brother [has died], and we didn’t know she was pregnant,” Hailey Burkey wrote on social media.
Tricia Renee, McReynolds’ sister, expressed frustration that McReynolds died a day after she was shot, and no one had told them.
“We had to dig it up ourselves, and we missed our chance to see her before she passed,” Renee said. “It was noon the next day before I found out.”
McReynolds was from Havre de Grace, Md., and a mother of two girls. She had worked at the Old Country Store in Horsepasture and most recently at the Bowles Corner Market on County Line Road in Bassett. She had lived in the area for more than 10 years, according to her Facebook page.
How McReynolds and McDowell ended up at a house in Fieldale Tuesday night has not been explained, but neighbors say the house has a reputation of being a place where illegal drugs are sold and consumed.
“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, and it feels safe,” Dennis Quigg said. “But a lot goes on at the house where the shooting took place.
“Yeah, I see county deputies coming down occasionally to that house there [pointing to the house where the shooting took place]. It’s a lot of activity.”
Angela Renee Prater, 43, of Fieldale died last year of a drug overdose at the same house where McReynolds was shot, according to her brother.
“My little sister died on Sept. 26 at this same house,” said Wayne Barnette of Martinsville. “She died of an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. … What does that tell you?”
Asked if the investigation indicated the residence was being used for illegal drug activity, Perry said, “There were a group of people, and there did appear that drug activity was taking place at the time.”
McDowell has a history of criminal issues and had served time in state prison.
In July 2008 he was convicted in Floyd County with three counts of grand larceny and two counts of breaking and entering.
He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with the entire time suspended.
In July 2013 McDowell was back in court for violating parole relating to the 2008 convictions and had 6 years of his 20-year sentence reinstated.
According to a Facebook page for Hassan Nikki McDowell, he converted to Islam, changed his name to Hassan and got married on July 19 to “Nikki.”
Court records show he is scheduled for a bond hearing on possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and malicious assault charges at 3:15 p.m. Friday and will then be arraigned at 3 p.m. April 16 in Henry County General District Court.