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Update: Pitts guilty of attempted 1st-degree murder in Carter Co. shootout

Johnson City Press • Updated Jan 31, 2019 at 5:53 PM

Jurors handed down guilty verdicts on all counts Thursday against a man who admitted shooting a deputy amid a shootout with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department.

Kelly Lee Pitts went to trial this week in Jonesborough on seven counts of attempted first-degree murder and seven counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The incident happened Dec. 16, 2015, and two people were shot — Carter County Sheriff’s Deputy Jenna Markland in the face, and Brandy Hyder in the hand.

Jurors had three days of testimony and evidence to look at, examine and consider — including testimony Wednesday from the defendant, who described a lifetime of drug and alcohol use leading up to the night he fired 52 semi-automatic rifle rounds toward sheriff’s deputies — as they began deliberation Friday morning.

“We were disappointed,” public defender Melanie Sellers said. “It is always sad when you have an individual who has otherwise led a crime-free life, but the effects of drugs and alcohol are serious. We were hoping for something, but we respect the jury’s decision.”

The jury imposed fines of $50,000 for each count of attempted murder and $5,000 on the other charges. He faces sentences of 15 to 25 years in prison on each count of attempted murder as Judge Stacy Street considers sentencing May 17.

Pitts, 39, took the stand Wednesday in his own defense and told the jury he wasn’t sure he was shooting at law enforcement in 2015 after having arguments with Brandy Hyder, his girlfriend at the time, and her brother, Jack Hyder.

“He had a story to tell, and I think that it is important for a jury to hear the context of what happened from him,” said Sellers.

Pitts said he actually thought it was some of Jack Hyder’s friends who were at the top of his driveway. Instead, it was Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford, three of his deputies and several private citizens.

“It has been a long three years and three months,” Lunceford said. “There are several of us that were victims, but the true victims were Deputy Markland and Miss Hyder. This is justice for them. The jury has spoken. Now it is up to him to pay his debt to society.”

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