"It's been a long time coming": Parents of murder victim open up about arrest

Published: Apr. 7, 2020 at 5:51 PM EDT
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Almost six months to the day of their son's murder, Joey and Shelly Erndt finally have some closure. The suspect in their son Chad Erndt's murder case surrendered to Roanoke City police Monday.

It was the first day for the judicial process. And it was the first day of the rest of the Erndts' lives.

"Yesterday was the first day of our healing process," said Joey Erndt. "It's been a long time coming, but it's here."

It was a day of tears and celebration for the family and friends of Chad Erndt, including Joshua Norris, who said he was with Erndt at WR Brews on Williamson Road the night of the shooting.

"And while he's outside [smoking]," Norris said, "I hear some gunshots and they were loud and it almost sounded like it was in the building."

Norris said he ran outside to see his friend had been shot. He and others began CPR.

"At some point of doing CPR I knew that he had passed. And that was huge for me. I just laid there, not far from him, because I didn't know what to do," said Norris. "You just shut down really, when you accept what's happening."

Norris said the news Monday brought simultaneous joys and smiles to him, who, for six months, had been left with the burden of being unable to provide additional evidence in the case.

"I feel that weight lifted," Norris said. "So if felt really good."

But it's unclear why Wilson's arrest didn't come sooner, particularly because in published search warrants WDBJ7 obtained just days after the murder, police in their affidavit identified their suspect as John Craig Wilson. The affidavits also explained witnesses told police the suspect had been at the bar earlier in the night, and that he had been removed from the property before returning and shooting Chad Erndt.

When WDBJ7 asked Roanoke Police Department about this, a spokesperson for the department said in an email investigations could take longer than expected, particularly when it comes to processing evidence. But they gave no specific reason for the delay in Erndt's case.

"It's still sad," said Shelly Erndt. "We won't ever get him back but it was just at least a little bit of closure for us."

She said in the months that followed her son's death, she heard from his friends, some of whom she never met, but whose company and support she appreciated.

But there also came calls from more strangers, some of whom she said expressed their conviction that Wilson was responsible.

Still, grief is no stranger to the Erndt family. They lost their other child, Jessica, in a car wreck in 2001. A 15-passenger van she was riding in rolled on the interstate. Her loss at 15 years old, they said, was hard on their then 12-year-old son. They said that led Erndt into a challenging adolescence, filled with questionable choices. But it makes his death even harder.

"Our first daughter, she was killed by an accident," Joey Erndt said. "But this wasn't an accident. It's a totally different scenario, and it's painful."

He said their granddaughter, Chad Erndt's 12-year-old daughter, is their saving grace. But not being able to see her during the pandemic has been difficult during this time.

"I mean the guy literally assassinated my son in cold blood in front of so many people," Joey Erndt said with exasperation of the suspect. "And it has just completely taken all that me and my wife have."

When WDBJ7 asked about Wilson's decision to turn himself in, police responded in an email that was still under investigation. What is also unclear at this time is why Wilson shot Erndt in particular.

Police denied WDBJ7's request for any images or videos from the scene.

For now, the Erndts grieve, they wait and they wish for better days ahead.

"And you know, if anybody wants to keep us in their prayers," Erndt said, we'll greatly appreciate it."

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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