Two women who suffered grievously as a result of Forrest Christopher Fielder’s crimes last summer got the chance to confront him directly Friday morning in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Their impassioned testimony came soon after Fielder, of Chatham, pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Ricky Lee Southern, to armed breaking and entering, and to the abduction and aggravated malicious wounding of Robin Walker.
“I hope you get saved and you go to heaven and you meet the man that you shot. Because you took his whole life away from him,” Melinda Wagner, one of Southern’s four siblings, told Fielder from the witness stand.
“Ricky forgave you. I know he has ... and I have forgave you, too, because that’s what God would want,” Wagner said through tears. “But my heart ain’t never gonna stop being broken.”
Robin Walker, a former friend of Fielder’s who later spent more than six months in the hospital recovering from shotgun wounds he inflicted on her, also spoke but offered no such clemency.
“You took an innocent man, a good man, that you didn’t even know,” she told Fielder. “I don’t know if I’ll ever find it in my heart to let it go.”
In her testimony Walker, 59, described how her injuries, which require further surgeries, had limited her independence and mobility, but had not stopped her from moving forward.
“You thought you was gonna kill me, but you didn’t,” Walker said to her attacker. “I hope you stay where you’re at now for the rest of your life for what you done to me.”
Her wish will likely come to pass — Fielder, who turns 60 in December, received three life sentences plus a decade for his four convictions which, allowing for the time that has been suspended, will leave him with a total of 30 years to serve.
As part of his agreement, Fielder will not seek any sort of parole or probation, including geriatric or compassionate release, should he become eligible.
Even if he gets credit for good behavior while in custody, the standard sentence reduction in Virginia is about 15%, which would see him set free when he’s in his mid-80s.
Fielder and Walker reportedly had a brief romantic involvement in July or August 2020, but county prosecutor A.J. Dudley said Walker had ended that relationship by Sept. 4, when Fielder, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, sneaked into her Snow Creek home to confront her and Southern.
Fielder shot and killed Southern, 54, and Walker was critically wounded by gunfire after she tried to escape. Fielder then drove her to his home in Pittsylvania County, called 911, and reported what had happened. He later gave at least one confession to investigators.
Fielder and defense attorney Carolyn Furrow did not present any evidence or arguments, but he apologized briefly to Walker and to Southern’s relatives.
“I made a wrong judgment that night,” Fielder said.
“You made a terrible, terrible decision, and it was totally wrong in all respects,” Judge Tim Allen told him. “You can do nothing to correct it right now. The only thing you can do is do right from this point forward and I encourage you to do that as much as you possibly can.”
Should Fielder live to see release from prison, he will be on probation for five years after he gets out and must be on good behavior indefinitely.