KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Two adult teens entered guilty pleas in Knox County Criminal Court Thursday on charges related to the death of Gibbs High School student Zach Munday.
Isaiah Brooks, 18, of Tazewell Pike, entered a guilty plea to felony reckless homicide.
Chelsea Nicole Hopson, 18, of Lyle Bend Lane entered a guilty plea to a charge of being an accessory after the fact.
Both defendants were graduated Gibbs High School students and were said to have been friends with Munday, with noted “amicable social history,” according to the court stipulation.
Munday, who also played football for Gibbs High School, died suddenly in late May.
An investigation into the circumstances surrounding Munday’ death was completed in early June by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the findings were sent to the district attorney general’s office.
Little information had been shared or officially confirmed by investigators or the district attorney’s office, until Thursday – in a packed courtroom before Judge G. Scott Green.
According to the state’s in-court factual stipulation, Munday and Brooks got into a fight at a home where there was a party, which reportedly led to Munday’s death.
Witness testimony in that document states there was underage drinking at the party. Witnesses believed, and evidence would show, that Munday and Brooks consumed around the same amount of alcohol and were at the same level of intoxication.
“The underage consumption of alcohol and the fear of that being discovered by parents became a theme discussed among many students during the night as this incident unfolded,” the document states.
Hopson arrived to the party to pick up Brooks around 2 a.m.
According to the testimony, Munday and Brooks got into a fight as Brooks was heading to the vehicle, but what happened in the fight – was under controversy.
One witness claimed seeing Brooks “physically pick (Munday) up and slam him headfirst onto the pavement.”
Another witness said they saw Munday running down the street and saw Brooks chase after him. The witness looked away, but then “heard the victim’s head striking the pavement.”
That witness said they turned back around and saw Brooks standing close to Munday while he was on the ground.
Brooks denied assaulting Munday. He reportedly told investigators that he saw Munday fall when he was running.
Hopson told investigators she didn’t see Munday and Brooks fighting. Instead, she said she heard Brooks ask Munday why he had hit him.
Hopson said Brooks got out of her vehicle and was approaching Munday as he was “scooting away.”
She heard a loud thud, assuming Munday’s head hit the pavement, but she looked in their direction, she said she saw both on the ground. She said she ran to help Munday.
After the fight, Munday was first put into Brooks’ Hummer, but was later brought to the basement of home of the party, “where the group discussed treatment of his bleeding ear and whether (Munday) needed to go to the hospital.”
Munday’s responsiveness was also in controversy.
Some witnesses said Munday was mumbling and incoherent while others said he was responsive and talking.
Other witnesses indicated that Munday said he didn’t want to go to the hospital.
Eleven witnesses stated in some manner that Brooks was either apologetic toward Munday and/or explained how Munday got his injuries after he “slammed” him.
“Brooks further stated to others that he was going to take care of the victim, and that the victim did not need to go to the hospital because he merely had a busted eardrum,” according to witness statements.
Munday was eventually transferred to Hopson’s vehicle, and several witnesses believed Hopson and Brooks were taking him to the hospital.
Leaving the scene
Instead, Brooks, Hopson and some others took Munday to Brooks’ home around 4 a.m.
Brooks was staying in a separate quarter of his home that was similar to an apartment.
One witness decided to stay the night at Brooks’ home, where Brooks stated he would wake his parents up if they needed to take Munday to the hospital.
The witness said Munday was mumbling, and Brooks was carrying him like an injured football player being carried off the field.
“(Munday) was taken into the shower by Brooks, and he could hear the victim vomiting,” according to the witness testimony.
The witness left around 9 a.m. and saw Munday sleeping in a bed with Hopson and Brooks and he could hear Munday breathing heavily.
Hopson checked Munday before leaving around 10 a.m., and said that the bleeding in his ear had stopped and he was conscious.
“She shook him and he groaned and rolled over,” Hopson told investigators.
Brooks called 911 at 12:11 p.m. on May 26 saying that Munday was unresponsive.
Doctors said Munday’s injuries were treatable, had he been brought to a hospital sooner.
Brooks, Hopson appear in court
Brooks entered a guilty plea to felony reckless homicide. Hopson entered a guilty plea to a charge of being an accessory after the fact.
Brooks will serve 10 years and Hopson six years, but how those terms will be served will be determined at the sentencing hearing later this year.
Judge Green set sentencing for Nov. 1.
When Munday died in late May, the community and friends were devastated.
Nearly three months later, friends say they are still heartbroken, but they’re coming up with ways to keep memories of Munday alive.
Just last week, one of his best friends designed a T-shirt, honoring how he lived his life. Family and friends were wearing “Justice for Zach” shirts in the court hearing.
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