published Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

DA to consider case of Monteagle police chief who fatally shot his hunting partner

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency investigators will meet with District Attorney General Michael Taylor this week to discuss the case of the Monteagle police chief who killed his hunting partner.

TWRA still is compiling evidence about the death, which occurred Thursday morning in the Richard City area of Marion County, TWRA spokesman Dan Hicks said.

Virgil McNeece, 46, shot Stanley Whitman, 41, in the head with a shotgun, said Marion County Sheriff Ronnie Burnett, whose department assisted the TWRA.

Whitman died the next day at Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga. His family said he loved to hunt and had done it his whole life. He and McNeece worshipped together at Gum Springs United Methodist Church.

On Monday, McNeece said he is still shaken. He declined to comment for this story.

"I just don't know if it's the time to give a statement," he said.

Taylor, of the 12th Judicial District, said he is still waiting for investigators' reports on the shooting before deciding whether McNeece will be charged. TWRA representatives expect to meet with the district attorney Wednesday, Hicks said.

In the meantime, McNeece will remain in charge of the Monteagle Police Department.

"We are supporting our chief," said Mayor Marilyn Rodman, who added that the town will release a more detailed official statement later this week.

Rodman said McNeece was on vacation when he shot Whitman, and Burnett said the sons of both the shooter and the victim were there, too.

But most details about the shooting remain unknown. Hicks said the TWRA will not be releasing any more details.

The victim's sister-in-law, 41-year-old Rolanda Whitman, said some family members still don't understand what happened.

"All we know is that it was an accident," she said.

Gum Springs United Methodist Church hosted Whitman's funeral on Sunday, and the building was packed with about 1,000 people, Rolanda Whitman said. Those who couldn't squeeze in watched from outside the building.

The family called him "Ransie," short for his middle name -- Loransie. He was married with four children, the oldest 23, the youngest 4. On the family's Tracy City farm, Rolanda Whitman said, he kept dogs and horses.

She said Stanley Whitman was raised in Coalmont, and he began working for Tyson Foods at the age of 14. Back then, he earned a salary chasing chickens. But more recently, he drove a truck for the company.

For fun, he hunted turkeys and deer.

"He loved it, loved it, loved it," said Rolanda Whitman. "It was bred in him."

She couldn't describe the grief her family felt, the out-of-nowhere shock of hearing the news last week. She struggled to describe Stanley Whitman as a person, too, struggled to figure out how to capture his personality in just one conversation.

Her husband, Stanley Whitman's brother, tried his best on Monday afternoon. Jonathan Whitman said Stanley fixed a smile on his face when he went out. He sought others out.

"He's just irreplaceable," Jonathan Whitman said. "He never met a stranger."

Staff writer Ben Benton contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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