Guilty plea entered as stabbing trial starts

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Lewisburg man's trial, during which he faced attempted murder charges, had already started Monday morning when he decided to plead guilty.

Testimony and other information about to be presented against the man included his daughter's statements to police at the crime scene that he was drunk and covered with blood.

The state also had a witness ready to testify the defendant offered him an opportunity to rob the victim.

The jury had been selected and sworn in, but was out of the courtroom when Jerry Lee Hunter, 50, of 416 1st Avenue North, pleaded guilty to the especially aggravated robbery of Cleveland Holder.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler handed down a sentence of 18 years. As a violent offender, Hunter will serve 100 percent of that time. Charges of criminal attempted first-degree murder and especially aggravated burglary were dismissed.

Holder, 52, was stabbed in the neck and upper right arm by Hunter about 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at his home, 432 1st Avenue North, as Hunter robbed Holder of $150. Holder managed to walk next door, where neighbors Linda and Tommy Wallace called 911 and maintained pressure on Holder's neck wound until emergency services arrived.

Lewisburg Police Detective Sgt. David Henley was in charge of the investigation.

Documents in the case file reveal that Hunter's daughter approached officers at the crime scene and told them her father was "intoxicated and covered in blood" at their residence, also on 1st Avenue North. Hunter was taken into custody at 7:45 p.m. Crigler signed a search warrant at 11:45 p.m. and "enough evidence to charge him" was found. The blood on the black and silver folding knife found in Hunter's possession was later analyzed at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab. The DNA of the blood sample was an exact match to the sample provided by Holder.

Hunter told law enforcement officials that he acted in self-defense because Holder hit him with a bat, according to records in Hunter's case file. The prosecution was prepared to call a witness to testify he turned down an invitation from Hunter to help him to rob Holder, who was said to have $500-$600.

Holder was taken by Air Evac helicopter to Vanderbilt where surgeons repaired his neck. He was out of hospital and "recuperating well" by the end of December.

Hunter was unable to make the $150,000 bond that was set for him, and remained jailed. He was represented in court by Michael Collins and Bill Harold of the Public Defender's Office. Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard prosecuted the case.

According to his jail intake sheet, Hunter, who's nicknamed "Spider," is 6 feet 6 inches tall and has tattoos "all over" his body. His ex-wife died in September 2009. Hunter's criminal record covers three pages in his case file, starting with a conviction for disposal of a dead body in Perry County in 1983, and going on to burglary, grand larceny, assault, possession of a weapon, driving under the influence, driving on revoked, and public intoxication.