First, an apology: I’m way behind on this case, because I apparently neglected to set up a Google alert for news updates like I usually do. I’m very sorry this update is so late!
Now, the “good” news (as much as news like this can be considered “good,” that is):
On February 23, 2021, 60-year-old Dennis Dwayne Chambers pleaded guilty to aggravated malicious wounding in the hammer bludgeoning attack of his wife, 24-year-old Corena Chambers, and to first-degree 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, 2020, Johnny Musick called 911 for a welfare check on his sister, 24-year-old Corena Chambers, who lived in the same home on Aberdeen Creek Road in Gloucester, Virginia. Corena, Johnny said, wasn’t answering when he knocked on the door of the bedroom his sister shared with her husband, 60-year-old Dennis Chambers, who had left the residence around 7:00 AM.
When deputies arrived, Johnny told them his sister’s bedroom door was locked, and he heard no noise from within the room. He was also unable to locate his sister’s five-month-old daughter, Emmy, anywhere in the home. Concerned, the deputies forced open the bedroom door, where they located Emmy on her back on the bed, already deceased. Corena lay on the floor next to the bed “with copious items piled on top of her,” suffering from “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 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, where she underwent emergency surgery to alleviate the swelling on her brain.
Dennis Chambers, described by the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office in a press release as standing five feet five inches tall, weighing 155 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes, and driving a white 2010 convertible Volkswagen Beetle, was taken into custody the following afternoon.
When interviewed by investigators following his arrest, according to a probable cause affidavit, Dennis admitted that he used a hammer to hit his wife “between two and three times” in the head during the early morning hours of July 7. After that, he said, he used a cotton burping cloth to smother baby Emmy to death, holding the cloth over the baby’s mouth and applying pressure for a few minutes. When Emmy stopped moving, Dennis said, he left the bedroom, locked the door, and fled the residence.
Dennis was charged with felonious assault/malicious wounding and second-degree murder and taken to the Gloucester County Jail, from where he was ultimately transferred to the Northern Neck Regional Jail for his safety. Indeed, I agree with the Sheriff’s Office protecting Dennis prior to conviction; we wouldn’t want to deprive any big, bad prison inmates of their chance to “meet” this prince of a man.
Earlier this year, a revised indictment upgraded Dennis’s charges from second-degree murder and malicious wounding to first-degree murder and aggravated malicious wounding, which is a second-degree felony.
Finally, on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, Dennis appeared in court to plead guilty to both enhanced charges, tearfully admitting to smothering Emmy and beating Corena nearly to death with a ball peen hammer. During the hearing, tears reportedly ran down Dennis’s face. According to officials, he has been in poor health since he was arrested last summer.
During the investigation, in addition to Dennis’s confession, investigators also matched DNA evidence on the handle of the hammer to Dennis and blood on the head of the hammer to Corena.
Gloucester Commonwealth’s Attorney John Dusewicz said at the plea hearing, “The defendant said the child was alive and kicking prior to his placing the cloth over her nose prior to applying pressure for two to three minutes… Chambers confessed to using a ball-peen hammer to strike his wife, Corena Chambers, in the head multiple times… She has not fully recovered from these injuries, and has continuously been either hospitalized or been in a rehabilitation center, only recently recovering her power of speech.”
Reportedly, no family members were present for the hearing. Dennis faces a maximum of life in prison on each of his two guilty pleas. His sentencing was originally scheduled for June 14, but instead, on that date, a mental examination was ordered for Dennis. The results of that examination are scheduled to be presented to the court on July 27 at 1:30 PM.
Corena Chambers has spent months fighting for her life. On July 20, 2020, her brother, Johnny, wrote on a GoFundMe campaign, “Corena still hasn’t fully woken up. She is moving the right side of her body a little which she couldn’t move before the done a tracheotomy and also put a feeding tube in her. She has been breathing on her own [since] they done the tracheotomy. She is following commands when her eyes are open. Still taking it day by day…”
The family was told Corena may never regain her ability to speak, but that has reportedly returned to her, according to the statements made by John Dusewicz in court.
In March, Corena’s brother, Johnny, and their mother, Lou Musick, spoke with WAVY, giving the public an update on Corena’s progress. They said Corena had come a long way, but she had a long journey ahead of her. In the nine months since Emmy died, Corena had been through the wringer. According to Johnny, “It’s just been rough… She’s had two strokes, one right after brain surgery that’s currently left her in about the state that she’s in now — paralyzed on her right side.”
Lou added, “She defeated the odds… Thank you everybody who prayed for her.”
At that time, the news station reported that Corena was about two weeks from being released from rehab, although she would need round-the-clock care. The family sought the public’s help to obtain a wheelchair-accessible vehicle to transport Corena. Johnny explained they would need the vehicle “to get her back and forth to all of her doctor’s appointments and taking her places she wants to go.”
Because the wheelchair-accessible vehicle could cost as much as $40,000, the family created another GoFundMe campaign to help defray the cost. The fundraiser is still open; if you’d like to help the family out, you can do so here.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Emmy’s story.
Sources: WAVY, Virginia Judiciary Online Case Information System 2.0, WRIC, Facebook, GoFundMe