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2 plead guilty to charges related to Zach Munday's death

The Gibbs High School 15-year-old died in late May after suffering a fatal head injury while at a gathering.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Two people pleaded guilty in Knox County Criminal Court Thursday to charges related to the May death of 15-year-old Zach Munday.

Isaiah Brooks, 18, and Chelsea Hopson, 18, appeared before Judge Scott Green. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have been working on an agreement for several weeks.

Brooks pleaded guilty to class D felony of reckless homicide and Hopson pleaded guilty to class E felony of accessory after the fact in Munday's death.

Both are set to appear in court on Nov. 1, 2019 at 1 p.m. for a sentencing hearing. They're seeking diversion.

Members of Munday's family were present for the guilty pleas.

"We just want people to realize that, you know, these kids are going out partying and stuff and we don't know who they're with, I mean, you gotta pay attention to the people your friends, your kids are with. It's too much," Munday's mother Jeanne Boger-Munday said after the guilty pleas.

His father, Josh Munday, said they were there to seek justice for their son. 

“We just want the community to know this was a senseless crime that didn’t have to occur," he said. “We don’t want to see anything like this happen again in the future.”

The Mundays are represented by attorney Gregory P. Isaacs. Brooks' lawyer is Deno Cole, and Hopson is represented by the Bosch Law Firm.

Munday, who would have turned 16 in June, suffered a fatal head injury while at a gathering in late May. Relatives at the time said he suffered injuries in some kind of a physical confrontation, but authorities declined to be specific.

RELATED: 'Zach will be saving 4 lives today' | Family donates organs of Gibbs teen

RELATED: Gibbs students remember the life of their classmate and best friend, Zach Munday

In court Thursday, prosecutor Kevin Allen detailed what was believed to have happened based on witness statements.

On May 25, Allen said Munday and his high school friends attended a party at the house of their friend, Noel Levya. It was intended to mark the end of high school and the death of a fellow Gibbs High School student whose burial and funeral took place earlier that day, he said.

It was also Memorial Day weekend.

"Witnesses would testify that the victim [Munday] and both defendants were friends and had an amicable social history," Allen said. "Further, that the relationship between defendant Brooks and the victim included instances where the victim would spend the night at defendant Brooks's residence."

Allen said Brooks called Hopson to pick him up from the party.

"Witnesses would testify and evidence would show that alcohol was being consumed at the party, and both Brooks and [Munday] consumed same to a level of intoxication," Allen said.

He said Brooks and Munday got into a fight outside and Brooks picked Munday up and slammed him on the pavement. Another witness said they saw Munday run down the street while Brooks was chasing after him and then saw Munday on the ground. 

"As her back was turned, she heard the victim’s head striking the pavement, and when she turned, she saw the victim on the ground, and defendant Brooks a short distance from the victim," Allen said. 

In an interview with KCSO, Brooks denied assaulting or harming Munday in any way and reported he ran and fell, striking his head, according to Allen. Hopson denied seeing any moment of physical contact between Brooks and Munday. 

According to Allen, multiple witnesses said Munday was brought to the basement of the home to talk about Munday's bleeding and whether he should be taken to the hospital. 

"Examination of the scene, along with witness statements indicate the victim was bleeding from the ear at the site of impact in the street," Allen said.

Brooks said he would take care of him and brought him out to Hopson's vehicle and, Allen said, they brought back to Brooks's home.

Allen said some witnesses reported Munday was responsive and talking in full sentences, other reports said he was responding but only with noises.

Brooks lives with his parents and, according to Allen, has his own area of the home. He lives in a walkout basement apartment-style area with a bedroom, bathroom with shower, and common area with keyed access to his living area separate from the main entrance of the home. 

Brooks and Hopson put him in the shower and could hear him vomiting and breathing heavily, Allen said.

According to Allen, Brooks told others that he would wake his parents if Munday had to go to the hospital.

Hopson said she left the next day around 10 a.m. and Munday was still responsive, according to Allen. She said when she shook him, he groaned and rolled over. 

His condition worsened, however.

Emergency authorities were called at 12:11 p.m. to the house. According to Allen, the surgeon who operated on Munday said he would have had a normal recovery and survived if he'd been brought to the hospital immediately after being wounded. 

The teen was put on life support as his family made arrangements for his organs, including heart and kidneys, to be donated.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office investigated circumstances leading up to the Gibbs High School student's injury and death.

RELATED: KCSO investigating death of 15-year-old Gibbs student

"Blood was documented in a dried area on the street in front of the Levya residence along with remnants of broken beads/jewelry presumptively worn by the victim," Allen said. 

Blood was recovered inside and outside Brooks's Hummer vehicle and in the bathroom and bedroom of his home, according to Allen. 

More blood evidence was recovered from a dumpster that contained discarded pillow/items from the Levya residence, where the party reportedly happened, Allen said.

"Additionally, KCSO interviewed dozens of witnesses during the investigation and collected 56 audio interviews. They further documented the investigation with hundreds of photographs, body-worn camera videos, phone forensics and tangible evidence collected. These items have been turned over to Attorney Deno Cole, counsel for defendant Brooks, and Attorney Chloe Akers, counsel for defendant Hopson for their review prior to the entry of this plea."

Friends and loved ones remembered Munday as a beacon of sunshine who was outgoing and always ready to help when needed.

He was baptized in the summer of 2018 during a youth revival event.

Family and friends held a celebration of life for him in June.

RELATED: Family and friends celebrate Zach Munday's life, legacy and his 16th birthday

Credit: Austin Meyers