A Virginia family is shattered, a precious baby dead, a mother fighting for her life, and a husband in jail, after a vicious attack.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 7, a young man named Johnny Musick called 911 and told them his sister, 24-year-old Corena Chambers, wasn’t answering when he knocked on the door of the bedroom she shared with her husband, 60-year-old Dennis Chambers, who had left the house at around 7:00 AM.
Deputies were dispatched to the home at 4233 Aberdeen Creek Road in Gloucester, Virginia for a welfare check. Johnny said the bedroom door was locked, he couldn’t find Corena’s infant daughter, Emmy, in the home, and he couldn’t hear her making noise in the bedroom, either. Emmy, who was born on January 30, 2020, was just over five months old.
Concerned deputies forced open the bedroom door, where they found the baby dead on her back on the bed. On the floor next to the bed lay Corena “with copious items piled on top of her;” the young mother “had suffered severe facial injuries, including fractures, severe blood loss, and further wounds resulting in her inability to speak or coherently communicate with officers. Quantities of dried and wet fluid and wetness consistent with blood and urine were found on various items around where Mrs. Chambers was positioned on the floor and on the bed area.”
Corena was airlifted to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital about 50 miles away, where she was immediately taken in for emergency surgery to alleviate the swelling of her brain.
Dennis Chambers was not present in the home when deputies arrived for the welfare check. Corena’s brother and two of her other relatives, who also lived in the home, said they had seen or spoken with Dennis earlier in the day.
The Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office put out a press release, describing Dennis as five feet five inches tall and weighing 155 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes.
Dennis would remain at large until he was captured on the evening of Wednesday, July 8. Police located his 2010 Volkswagen Beetle parked at the Wahrani Nature Trail in New Kent County, and after hours of searching by both New Kent and Gloucester county deputies, Dennis was taken into custody.
After Dennis was arrested, Corena’s mother, Emma Lou Musick, told a 13News Now reporter that the family was “relieved.”
Dennis was, according to Gloucester Sheriff Darrell Warren, cooperative during his arrest. According to a probable cause affidavit, Dennis admitted to an investigator that he used a hammer to hit Corena “between two and three times” in the head some time in the early morning hours of July 7 before using a cotton burping cloth to smother baby Emmy to death. He said he held the cloth over the baby’s mouth and applied pressure for a few minutes, and after Emmy stopped moving, he left the bedroom and locked the door.
Dennis has been charged with felonious assault/malicious wounding and second-degree murder. He was initially taken to the Gloucester County Jail but soon transferred to the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia for his safety. Sheriff Warren said, “He could be subject to attack from another inmate, and our regional jail is much better suited to isolate him from other inmates.”
According to court documents, family members and neighbors told investigators that Corena “had been having several extramarital relationships with various men” and that Dennis had recently been told that Emmy “was not his biological child.”
Whether or not these things were true, Corena did not deserve to be smashed in the face with a hammer, and Emmy certainly did not deserve to be suffocated to death. Some online comments about this case have been absolutely brutal from people criticizing or pointing fingers at Corena, and I refuse to feed into or tolerate victim-blaming.
A neighbor told police that Dennis was upset over the revelation, “and he would be seen weeping outside the residence.” Neighbors and family members said the frequency of the couple’s arguments had increased recently because of Dennis’s health issues, which prevented him from taking a trip he had planned for the Fourth of July.
Neighbor Wayne Jenkins was quick to volunteer for an interview when news outlets were sniffing around for crumbs the morning after the attack. This kind of interview always irritates me, and I think it’s hacky journalism to stick a microphone in the face of some random person on the street regardless of his proximity to the case. Too many people are more interested in their 15 minutes of fame than in, y’know, telling the truth.
The shirtless Mr. Jenkins told reporters, “I know that she treated him wrong.”
Jenkins said he had known Dennis for about 12 years. “When you know he’s out there, all you got to do is listen, and you’ll hear him coughing. He sneaks behind the garage and the shed to smoke a cigarette. I know the guy, and I just don’t believe he’s a violent person.”
He mused, “How can somebody get beat with a hammer and you not hear nobody scream or nothing?”
Jenkins did, however, see some strange behavior on Dennis’s part on Tuesday morning. “I noticed he kept running from the front door to the end of the house. So I said [to myself], something was wrong. And it about rang in my mind. I said to myself, ‘Oh God, I hope that baby is not dead…’ Later I found out the baby is dead.”
After Dennis had left, Jenkins crossed the road and asked another resident of the home what was going on. The relative, Jenkins said, “hesitated, and then he said ‘You would find out when Dennis is caught.’ He said, ‘Dennis is gone, and he’s the prime suspect.’”
This guy is taking the innocent until proven guilty principle to the extreme, adding, “I’m sorry for the baby, but I just can’t see that Dennis done anything. It would have to be proven to me; I’d have to see. But I guess time will tell.”
I wonder if his opinion changed after Dennis reportedly confessed.
According to an update on July 20 by her brother, Johnny, on the GoFundMe campaign set up to assist with Emmy’s funeral costs and Corena’s mounting medical bills, “Corena still hasn’t fully woke up. She is moving the right side of her body a little which she couldn’t move before they done a tracheotomy and also put a feeding tube in her. She has been breathing on her own sense they done the tracheotomy. She is following commands when her eyes are open. Still taking it day by day. Please continue praying for her and family. We will update when we learn something else.”
Another family member said that as of yesterday, Corena was still in the hospital and still hadn’t woken completely since the attack 35 days ago. She may never regain the ability to speak. Corena has not yet been told that her daughter, little Emmy, is dead. What an awful, tragic, unimaginable thing to wake up to.
The family member also said that the police put together a fund and paid for Emmy’s funeral, which was held on Sunday, July 19 at the Haysi Funeral Home. Afterward, Emmy was buried in the K.S. Colley Cemetery in the town of Breaks.
According to that family member, she is unaware if Emmy is not Dennis’s biological daughter, but she said that they are waiting on the results of a DNA test. Also, she added, about two years ago, Corena became pregnant with Dennis’s twins and suffered a miscarriage.
Corena’s family member said she believes Dennis had been grooming Corena from a young age. Virginia marriage records indicate Corena married another man named Allen Deel on January 9, 2014, but it seems that marriage was short-lived, since Dennis and Corena, according to Dennis’s Facebook page, have been a couple since at least August of 2014. They have reportedly been married for about four years.
I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, such as my initial post about little Madalyn Slater, why this kind of age difference — Dennis is 60 while Corena is 24 — signals a vast imbalance of power in a romantic relationship. My comments in that post also apply to this story:
We’re taught as children to respect our elders, believing they’re automatically wiser than we are, which builds into that relationship a sense that the older man must be right, simply by virtue of being older. A young woman going into that kind of relationship tends to trust her older lover’s judgment for that reason alone. It’s a dangerous place to start, especially when she’s a teenager…
The problem is in the mindset and intentions of a grown man whose brain is fully developed romantically pursuing a teenager or a woman in her early twenties. What he is undoubtedly preying on is her naivety and her vulnerability to his charms and manipulation. She can be easily fooled into believing what the older man wants her to believe, coerced into doing whatever he wants her to do, and essentially being duped into a relationship based on lies and manipulation — a relationship that will, as time passes, very likely become increasingly abusive, whether emotionally, physically, sexually, or any combination of those.
It will also be very, very difficult to escape.
That appears to be what happened here, and it turned out to be a worst-case scenario.”
It appears Dennis Chambers has owned the home on Aberdeen Creek Road in Gloucester since December of 2006, but Corena’s family member said Corena had grown fed up with Dennis’s controlling behavior and wanted him to leave. For example, he took her keys away the week before the attack. The family member also said Dennis and Corena were scheduled to go to court the day after the attack to determine custody of Emmy.
Regardless of what led up to this heinous attack, no one deserves what happened to this mother and daughter. My heart goes out to Corena and her family, and I hope Corena makes a full recovery and is able to help get justice for her baby girl.
Rest in peace, Emmy.
Sources: WAVY, Fox 59, GoFundMe, Facebook, 13News Now, Gloucester County property records, Haysi Funeral Home website
[…] murder in the smothering death of Corena’s 5-month-old daughter, Emmy Chambers.I first covered Emmy and Corena’s story on the blog in August of 2020, but I’ll recap it here.On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 7, […]