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Altercation over Noise Complaint Leads to Murder

24-Feb-2014

On February 15, a young woman knocked on the door of a noisy neighbor, not knowing that her request for peace and quiet would ultimately end in her husband's death. 

Witnesses say that Ethan Johnson Spruill, 22, of Norman, had been drinking much of the day and was acting "disorderly" and making a lot of noise. At approximately 10:30 p.m., Stephanie McCray, a young mother who lived in a nearby apartment, knocked on Spruill's door and asked him to be quiet. Witnesses say Spruill followed McCray to her apartment, where he began arguing with her husband, 22-year-old Aaron Donelle McCray, Jr. According to residents of the apartment complex, Spruill pulled a gun and shot McCray several times before returning to his own apartment. 

McCray was transported to Norman Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Often, the randomness of violence and the senselessness of murder are shocking. When one hears of a killing over a noise complaint or a traffic incident, texting in a movie, or out of boredom,  the disregard for human life in these situations is unfathomable. What prompts such a violent response to what would be, for most people, a minor irritation at worst?

In the Spruill case, as in many others, alcohol or drug use seems to be a major precipitating factor. One witness said that Spruill had been drinking with another neighbor earlier in the day, but after that neighbor returned to his apartment, Spruill continued to act "drunk and disorderly." She said the suspect was "making a lot of noise" and that she overheard him say, "I fell off my wagon." Now, because of impaired judgment, one 22-year-old man's life is over, and another faces life behind bars.

In another case of alcohol-fueled rage, a Stillwater man was convicted of manslaughter last month after beating his best friend to death. Christopher Allen Dawes, 28, was charged with first degree murder, but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first degree manslaughter. As a result, Dawes is sentenced to 20 years in prison, rather than the life sentenced he faced if convicted of first degree murder. In that case, Dawes had been drinking at his home with his girlfriend Jasmine Lewis, 24, and another friend, Jeremy Sutherland, 32. Dawes passed out, and when he awoke, he discovered Sutherland kissing Lewis. Dawes attacked Sutherland and assaulted Lewis before the woman convinced him to stop hitting his friend. Dawes dragged the victim outside to a neighboring yard and left him there, returning to the home to confront Lewis. He then returned to Sutherland, and although the victim was lying on the ground and incoherent, he attacked him again. 

Sutherland died of blunt force injuries less than four days later.

In both the Spruill case and the Dawes case, alcohol seems to be the catalyst that escalated anger to deadly levels. Although alcohol use in and of itself is not the root of all evil, when abused, it can create judgement and impulse control problems that land a person in serious legal trouble. Assault, domestic violence, and DUI are among alcohol-related crimes that can have serious, even fatal results.



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