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Man accused of killing wife with eye drops appears in court

Judge Jesse Caldwell IV issued a gag order, which prohibited anyone directly involved in the case from talking publicly about the case.

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Joshua Hunsucker, the former North Carolina paramedic accused of killing his wife by poisoning her with eye drops in 2018, appeared in court Friday for pre-trial motions. 

Hunsucker was arrested in December 2019 in connection with the death of his wife, Stacy Robinson Hunsucker, in September of 2018. Prosecutors claimed Hunsucker was inspired by a Lake Wylie woman who pleaded guilty to poisoning her husband in a similar fashion in 2018. Court documents allege that within days of learning about that case, Hunsucker poisoned his wife's water with deadly amounts of tetrahydrozoline.

In July of 2020, Stacy Robinson Hunsucker's cause of death was changed from a heart attack to homicide. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hunsucker, claiming he killed his wife to collect a $250,000 insurance payout and be with his mistress.

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On Friday afternoon, Judge Jesse Caldwell IV issued a gag order, which prohibited anyone directly involved in the case, including attorneys, investigators, and potential witnesses, from talking publicly about the case.

Gag orders are rarely ordered and are typically considered an "extraordinary step" during a trial. One of the most recent examples of a gag order in a high-profile trial was in 2016 when William McCullen was convicted of murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter, Jordyn Dumont.

Friday's hearing ultimately devolved into a heated debate between Hunsucker's attorney, David Teddy, and special prosecutor Jordan Green over the meaning of the word "file" in North Carolina's rules for discovery. 

The debate began after North Carolina's Department of Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey gave a national television interview last year, where he discussed the Hunsucker case.

Because Causey's agency is the lead investigator in the case, Teddy argued the interview and national exposure harmed his client's right to a fair trial and tainted potential jurors. 

Teddy wanted to know if Green or the lead detective in the case, Lisa Morgan. had any contact with national news media.

He also questioned whether he received all of the state's evidence that he and Hunsucker are entitled to receive so he tried to call Investigator Morgan to the witness stand.

"I contend we don't have it all," Teddy said. "I've asked about body cams in connection with the [traffic] stop. I've asked about body cams in connection with the search warrant, and I haven't gotten a straight answer on whether they exist or not."

Green opposed bringing Morgan to the stand.

He insisted he gave Teddy everything he's entitled to in the investigative file, and he argued Teddy isn't entitled to have some of the requested files.

"He is wrong on that," Green said. "Everything that is defined in the term 'file' in 15A-903 has been turned over and will continue to be turned over if it comes into the state’s possession."

Judge Jesse Caldwell IV ultimately denied Teddy’s request to bring Morgan to the stand.

In a consent order filed with the court Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Insurance agreed to turn over information Teddy requested regarding Causey's participation in the interview in exchange for Teddy not pursuing a gag order on the commissioner.

In court, Teddy said the North Carolina Attorney General's Office will review everything the Department of Insurance has in the Hunsucker file to ensure the defense has the documents they're entitled to by law.

According to court filings, Judge Carla Archie denied Teddy's motion last month to change the trial's location from Gaston County to a different county.

Both Teddy and Green said it's too early to determine a trial date.

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