SNOW HILL — A Virginia man was sentenced last week to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the drug-related, assassination-style shooting death of a Worcester County man in Pocomoke last December.
Shortly after 10 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2016, a motorist called 911 from the area of Market Street and 4th Street in Pocomoke to report seeing a man stagger across the road and fall in the middle of the street. Pocomoke Police officers were dispatched immediately along with emergency medical service personnel. Upon arrival of EMS, the victim appeared to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds. The victim, identified a James Allen, Jr., 26, of Pocomoke, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police believe the incident occurred in the area of Oxford Street and 4th Street, about an eighth of a mile from where the 911 caller observed the victim staggering. On Dec. 11, allied law enforcement agencies identified the suspect as Anthony Tunnell, 37, of Mappsville, Va., who was apprehended without further incident at a motel in Salisbury.
In August, a Worcester County Circuit Court jury deliberated for about an hour before returning with a guilty verdict for first-degree murder for Tunnell and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered. Back in court last Friday, Tunnell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, a maximum sentence requested by the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office.
During sentencing last Friday, Deputy State’s Attorney Bill McDermott asked Circuit Court Judge Richard Bloxom to sentence Tunnell to the maximum allowed under state law, asserting that last Dec. 1, Tunnell planned, orchestrated and successfully carried out the cold-blooded, drug cartel-style assassination because he believed someone had stolen his marijuana supply.
“Mr. Tunnell decided to be judge, jury and executioner, and as certain as James Allen will never breathe again, a sentence of life without the possibility of parole will ensure that Anthony Tunnell will never harm another person in our community.”
Before imposing sentence, Bloxom reportedly said on Dec. 1, 2016, Tunnell entered Worcester County with the intent to assassinate Allen. Bloxom also noted one of the purposes of sentencing was to protect the community from people like Tunnell and that the sentence of life without the possibility of parole would accomplish that purpose.
Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby commended the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit and the allied agencies involved for their diligence.
“Solving and successfully prosecuting this homicide required dedication and countless hours of investigation and preparation by members of law enforcement,” he said. “Sergeant Sabrina Metzger, Sergeant Kyle Clark and all participating allied law enforcement investigators went above and beyond to protect Pocomoke City and the Worcester County community. Thanks to the efforts of law enforcement, the citizens of Worcester County will wake up in the safety of their beds while Mr. Tunnell will wake up every day for the rest of his life in the confines of his cell.”
Pocomoke City Police Chief William Harden also praised the collaborative investigation and prosecution efforts in the case.
“The investigation and adjudication of the defendant is a prime example of effective collaboration between the Pocomoke City Police Department, the Worcester County Criminal Bureau of Investigations, the Maryland State Police and the Office of the State’s Attorney for Worcester County,” he said.