A Dante, Virginia, man will serve 18 years in prison for the 2018 shooting death of his brother-in-law, according to authorities.

Larry Leon “Snake” Fields, 69, appeared in Wise County Circuit Court on Monday and was sentenced to 23 years, with five years suspended, Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp said. He will serve 18 years in custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections and five years of probation.

Following a two-day bench trial in January, Fields was convicted of felony murder, reckless handling of a firearm and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the death of Anthony Mark Ward, 48, of Castlewood, Virginia.

Slemp asked the court to sentence Fields to life in prison.

On March 31, 2018, Fields and Ward were working together at a location behind the Dominion Virginia Power Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center in the town of St. Paul. Slemp said the entire incident was captured by security cameras. 

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police were called to the site on Russell Creek Road, where the two men, who worked for a construction contractor, Deer Builders, were repairing the roof.

Fields told Detective Duane Phillips that the two men had been aggravating each other all day. They painted each other’s feet, he told Phillips, according to a criminal complaint filed in Wise County General District Court.

Slemp said evidence showed the men were joking with one another that afternoon while at work. Co-workers told police it was not unusual for the two men to be “horsing around” and irritating each other, the criminal complaint states.

At some point during the day, Fields pulled a loaded .22 revolver from his truck, pointed the gun 5 or 6 feet above Ward’s head and pulled the trigger, Slemp said.

Fields claimed the shooting was an accident but admitted that he waved around the firearm and pulled the trigger to scare the victim. Ward was shot in the forehead just above his right eye.  He died later at Bristol Regional Medical Center.

“This is a tragic case and a senseless act of violence demonstrating an extreme disregard for human life,” Slemp said. “We hope that today's sentencing will provide closure and justice for the victim's family.”

Fields is incarcerated at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield.

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