Two homicide cases in Cumberland County continue to be bogged down in the court system as a result of restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both defendants are charged with the deaths of two persons in separate cases.

The cases against John Patrick Fields, 48, of Nine Mile Crossroads W., Pikeville, and John Warren Nostrom, 76, formerly of Lake Tansi, have been tangled up in sanctions relating to the effects of the COVID virus.

The case against Nostrom was filed in September 2018. He is accused in the shooting death of his estranged wife, Joy Nostrom, 58, and her friend, Mark Gardner, 54, of North Carolina. The incident occurred at the Cumberland County School Bus Garage off Genesis Rd.

The cases against Fields date back to March 2019. One death occurred on Vandever Rd. and the other on Critter Creek Rd. 

Fields is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the Vandever Rd. incident. Makayla Laray Manning, 23, was found shot to death at the scene.

In the second first-degree murder case, Fields is accused of the beating death of Lowell “Chip” Simmons II, 47, of Brewer Rd., whose body was found in a burn pit off Critter Creek Rd.

On Sept. 4. Nostrom’s attorney, Howard Upchurch, informed Judge Gary McKenzie that the holdup on a competency examination was based on the private policy of the firm who employs their expert witness.

Nostrum was being scheduled for an examination for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia which, if found by the expert, would be a key part of his defense. The expert witness’ company, however, forbids in-person examinations in corrections facilities or jails because of COVID-19.

“Because they deal with the elderly, I guess their policy is out of concern for that,” the judge was told.

The cases against Nostrom were continued to Nov. 10 for a hearing during which time expert witnesses could be called to testify.

A similar issue exists in the cases against Fields. There has been continued delays in a competency exam for Fields because of so many requests and the restrictions caused by COVID.

McKenzie set a motion hearing date in Fields’ cases for Dec. 7.


Michael Moser may be reached at