Was the shooting death of a Crossville school bus driver and her friend by the woman’s estranged husband an act of self-defense and passion? Or, was the double-homicide a calculated daylight shooting born out passion caused by a failed marriage?

That is what a Cumberland County jury will have to determine. Fourteen jurors were seated. Opening statements from attorneys of both sides and testimony began Tuesday.

The 14 jurors include two alternates who will be dropped if not needed when the trial ends and the fate of Warren John Nostrom, 77, formerly of Lake Tansi, is decided.

Nostrom is accused of shooting to death his estranged wife, Joy Nostrom, Birchwood Apts., and her North Carolina friend with whom she was romantically linked, Mark Gunter.

Before jury selections began, drama in the case surfaced when an investigative document stuck in a police department file surfaced. Prior to the week before trial, the existence of the document was reportedly unknown to defense and state attorneys.

What is included inside plays into the defense theory one of the two slayings was done in self-defense.

That document — found in a Crossville Police folder documenting CPD’s contacts with Nostrom, his wife and Gunter, shows that Gunter changed his name from Waggoner. Under his former name, court officials said Gunter was convicted of felonious assault on a police officer, felonious assault on a government figure and felon in possession of a weapon.

This is significant because defense attorney Howard Upchurch is expected to promote the theory that Gunter was shot in self-defense as Gunter approached Nostrom’s Chevrolet mini-van. The document promotes the theory Nostrom had reason to fear Gunter. In addition, Nostrom was 74 years old at the time of the shootings and Gunter age 54.

The state is relying on the actions of Nostrom who was ordered in an order or protection to surrender all his weapons. Nostrom gave all his guns to Crossville service station owner Ed Jones with the exception of a .380 semi-automatic handgun that he kept in the console of his van.

During a taped interview, Nostrom first told investigators he simply forgot about the handgun in his van. Later, in the same interview, Nostrom told investigators he kept the gun because if was small and he liked it.

The state is also advancing a theory that Nostrom violated the order of protection by maintaining contact with his estranged wife. The defendant told investigators it was Joy Nostrom who continued to contact after the order was granted.

The state also believes that Nostrom followed his ex-wife and, on Sept. 14, 2018, followed Gunter and Nostrom into the parking lot of the Cumberland County Schools bus maintenance garage where the shootings took place.

Catalyst for the shooting, according to prosecutors, was betrayal in a 32-year marriage and financial disarray that led to bankruptcy. The final straw was the taking of Nostrom’s pickup truck from Jones station where it was under repair. Nostrom was told by police there was little they could do because the couple was still married and the truck common property of the couple.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations sometime Thursday afternoon and could return with a verdict Thursday evening or Friday.

The jury’s verdict and testimony from witnesses will be published online when available and in the next print edition of the Chronicle.

Michael Moser may be reached at mmoser@crossville-chronicle.com

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