Court upholds conviction in murder of Ronnie Sturdivant

May. 07, 2013 @ 06:16 PM

The N.C. Court of Appeals found no error in the conviction of Barry Kaalund for second-degree murder in the shooting death of hotel owner Ronnie Sturdivant in 2008.

A jury found Kaalund guilty of second-degree murder in March 2012 after hearing testimony in which Kaalund admitted going into the basement of a vacant hotel at 605 West Chapel Hill Street and firing shots at a figure in the darkness.

Kaalund testified he thought someone had broken into the hotel, where he leased space for a flea market, and he went into the basement and fired when it appeared someone was moving towards him.

When he turned on the lights, he saw he had shot and killed his landlord, Sturdivant, who was downstairs making repairs.

Kaalund appealed his conviction, saying Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith should have given the jury instructions that would have allowed it to find Kaalund guilty of  involuntary manslaughter.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, saying involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone unintentionally kills someone, and Kaalund testified he fired at someone in the darkness.

"We find nothing to support the argument that Defendant fired his gun unintentionally," the opinion states. "Indeed, he appears to have admitted at trial that he intentionally fired the weapon, pointing out that he changed directions when shooting to follow the victim's movements and doing so because he incorrectly believed that his life was in danger."

Kaalund also said he should have been allowed to introduce evidence that one of his employees, who testified Kaalund said he was going to "pop" Sturdivant, had a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

The court opinion stated it could not conclude that the trial court's decision to exclude evidence of the witness's prior history of drug and alcohol abuse was unsupported by reason or was arbitrary in any way.

The exclusion of the evidence was at most a harmless error, the  court stated.