VA hospital shooter gets life in prison

Posted at 11:58 AM, Jan 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-18 11:58:55-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) –  A judge has sentenced the man who pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a patient at McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center last year.

Cornelius I. Hayes, 55, of Blackstone, was sentenced to life in prison Friday morning. 

Judge Henry Hudson said that Hayes was both calculating and ruthless. He also said Hayes presents a continuing threat to the Richmond community

Hayes also had 22 other convictions including shooting into an occupied dwelling.

However, Hayes’ girlfriend, Pam Hawkes, testified that she still loves him but that the drugs got a hold of Hayes

Hayes shot and killed James S. Lee, then tried to kill another person on hospital grounds during the February shooting.

Lee, an Army veteran receiving cancer treatments, was struck in the head and the eye during the morning shooting in the parking lot outside of the vast South Richmond facility. He was taken to VCU Medical Center, where his family said he was put on life support but showed no brain activity. Life support was removed. and Lee died. [Read more about the shooting]

Shortly after the shooting, Hayes admitted to killing Lee.

Hayes’ live-in girlfriend, a nurse’s aide at the VA, is Lee’s first cousin. She said Lee and Hayes lived five houses apart from each other in Blackstone.

Shortly after the shooting, she told CBS 6 Hayes had been bringing Lee to the hospital for cancer treatments. She said there had been no friction between the two men leading up to the shooting.