Teen killer pleads guilty to second-degree murder

Nick Hunsucker to serve at least 16 years in prison
Sep. 10, 2013 @ 08:36 AM

A teenager accused of bludgeoning his mother to death a week before Christmas in 2011 pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder.

Under the terms of a plea deal, Nick Hunsucker, 19, will serve 16 to 20 years in prison. He had been charged with first-degree murder. 

Hunsucker appeared nervous as he was led into the courtroom before the hearing. As testimony about the attack began, he started to shake and weep. Before sentencing, Judge C. Thomas Edwards allowed Hunsucker to speak. He said only, "I'm sorry."

At that, he was led out of the courtroom and to Central Prison in Raleigh for processing. He will be at least 35 before he is a free man.

Hunsucker called 911 on Dec. 18, 2011, and said his mother, Kathy Eller, 54, had suffered a seizure and fallen down the steps. When rescuers arrived, they quickly realized she had been savagely beaten. Court testimony revealed Hunsucker and his mother had been arguing about a girlfriend, but little else is known about a motive for the beating.

Caldwell County Sheriff's Detective Steve Raby testified Monday that Eller was found lying on the floor between the kitchen and living room, surrounded by spattered blood. Behind a TV were two golf clubs, a graphite club with the head broken off and laying nearby, and a 9-iron club bent at an angle. Blood also was found in Hunsucker's bedroom upstairs, and on Hunsucker himself. The golf clubs, a pot lid and a glass cross all had bloodstains.

"The blood spatters on him were as if he were swinging the club during the attack," Raby said.

Eller was flown to Carolinas Medical Center. Raby was told by Charlotte-Mecklenberg police it appeared she wouldn't survive. Raby went to see her the next day at Carolinas Medical Center.

"She suffered very horrific wounds," Raby said. "Her head was swollen. She had lacerations all over her head from at least five blows."

Eller died four days later.

"He had been in special education classes since the sixth grade," defense attorney Herb Pearce said of the former South Caldwell High student. "He had open heart surgery at age 5, and he also had attention deficit hyperactive disorder. He had ran out of his medications at the time of the assault."