Bar Owner Charged in Singer’s Death Released From Jail
The bar owner charged in the fatal shooting of a country musician was given a lower bond and released from jail to await his next court date.
Police say Chris Ferrell fatally shot musician Wayne Mills on Nov. 23 at Ferrell’s downtown bar, Pit and Barrel. Indicted on a charge of second-degree murder, Ferrell has been jailed since Dec. 6.
Ferrell, 45, has maintained that he shot Mills, 44, in self-defense after an argument. Lawyers and acquaintances said the men were friends.
Monday’s 90-minute bond hearing — unusually long — provided new details about the early morning shooting, its aftermath and the police investigation.
Among revelations were that police failed to notice a bullet lodged in the wall of the bar that private investigators, whom defense lawyer David Raybin hired on Ferrell’s behalf, later found and that Ferrell has received at least a dozen death threats since the fatal altercation.
Ferrell appeared in court in a yellow jail jumpsuit that signifies he’s in protective custody at the jail. During almost 25 minutes on the witness stand, he testified about threats sent via text message, social media and voicemail. He said he took to wearing a bulletproof vest for safety before being arrested.
Raybin called Ferrell’s original $300,000 bond “extraordinarily high” and asked for a reduction to $25,000, stating that Ferrell acted in self-defense and took the initiative to call 911.
“He could have run for tall weeds. He didn’t,” Raybin said.
Assistant District Attorney Rachel Sobrero asked that the higher bond remain in place, citing Ferrell’s history of prior arrests.
Ferrell’s family ties in multiple states also could make him a flight risk, she said. Charges of domestic assault and interfering with an emergency call were dismissed this year and he awaits a hearing on a vandalism charge.
Judge Steve Dozier cut the bond to $150,000 and set rules for Ferrell, including where he will live and how regularly he must check in with a bail bondsman. He was ordered to give up his collection of more than a dozen guns. Ferrell was released at 6:54 p.m. CT Monday, according to jail records.
Ferrell testified that he posed for a group photo at 4:08 a.m. alongside Mills; musician Shooter Jennings, son of country music icon Waylon Jennings; and others. The crowd had dissipated by the time he called 911 to report the shooting at 4:56 a.m.
When police arrived at the bar minutes later, Ferrell told officers that Mills tried to rob and kill him and that he “had to do it,” an officer testified. Police have said the men argued about Mills smoking in the bar.
Police found a trail of blood from the parking lot to just inside the front door, where Mills lay, breathing but unconscious. Broken glass surrounded him. A dog was running loose. An empty revolver and a semi-automatic handgun were on nearby tables.
Before Ferrell was indicted, Raybin hired Larry Flair, a former city homicide detective, to investigate. Flair found a bullet lodged in the wall of the bar and told police. But a meeting scheduled with detectives to discuss that finding never took place. Ferrell was indicted first.
“This man and his lawyer and those investigators talked to detectives about this case and provided them with information about extra bullets that we’re finding,” Raybin told the judge. “We stand prepared to do that. There are not that many clients that I have that I make an offer like that.”
According to court testimony, Ferrell first moved to Nashville 20 years ago for music and has worked in construction and classic car restorations.
Mills, who grew up in Arab, Ala., about 150 miles south of Nashville, played football at the University of Alabama before becoming a well-known “outlaw” country musician. His wife, Carol Mills, said he was a giving man and an organ donor. He is survived by a 7-year-old son.
Ferrell’s bar is being liquidated.