JONESVILLE - A 10-woman, two-man jury took about 20 minutes Wednesday to find a Tennessee man with a history of violence not guilty of malicious wounding for slicing a Pennington Gap man's neck last summer.
Jeffrey Jenkins, 34, of Maryville, was charged with breaking and entering in the nighttime with the intent to commit murder and with malicious wounding for a June 20 incident in which Chancy Brummett was sliced across the neck in his home at Old Mill Apartments in Pennington Gap.
Jenkins' prior record includes convictions for attempted murder and carjacking in 2000, for which he was sentenced to eight years in Tennessee, and an aggravated assault conviction in 1997.
Testimony began with Thomas Meeker, who at the time lived across the hall from Brummett. Meeker told the court that someone knocked on his door just after midnight, and when he answered a man he didn't know was demanding to know the whereabouts of a woman who had taken his money. Meeker said he told the man he did not know what he was talking about and that there was no one with that description in his apartment. He even let the man in to verify that answer, Meeker said.
After the man - whom Meeker identified for the court as Jenkins - was satisfied the woman was not present, he knocked on the apartment door across the hallway. Meeker said he advised the man that the resident, Brummett, was either not home or working, and although the man left, he returned shortly and knocked again. Meeker said he watched through the peephole in his door as Brummett answered and Jenkins questioned him. When Brummett told Jenkins he did not know what he was talking about, Meeker testified, Jenkins struck his neighbor on the jaw with his fist.
Meeker said he then noticed that Jenkins had a hawkbill knife in his hand, and the blade cut a large gash along his neighbor's neck.
At that point, Meeker said, he grabbed his cell phone to call police then gave it to his fiancee with instructions to tell them what had happened. While she did that, Meeker said, he grabbed a knife and went to his neighbor's aid. When he came to the Brummett apartment the door was closed, and although it was not locked he had to force his way inside. As he entered, Meeker said, he saw Jenkins lead Brummett from the kitchen into the living room in a headlock.
Meeker said he encouraged Jenkins to let Brummett go. They all eventually ended up in the hallway, where Meeker's fiancee soon came out and then went back inside to get a towel to dress the wound. Meeker said he continued to tell Jenkins to leave so they could obtain medical aid for Brummett, and soon another unknown man came up, talked briefly to Jenkins, then the two left.
The police soon arrived, ordered an ambulance, and Brummett was taken to the hospital for treatment, Meeker said.
Meeker's fiancee and Brummett told similar stories to the jury about the incident. The emergency room doctor who treated Brummett said the wound required seven stitches and that had it been two millimeters deeper it would have sliced the carotid artery and/or jugular vein, and death would have been almost instantaneous.
Two of Jenkins' co-workers testified that they went to the apartment building just after midnight, where they met with a woman, later identified as Brummett's sister Chasity Brummett. Both said she rode with them to another residence and back to the apartment, where she went in alone with a promise to be back later. When she did not return, Jenkins went in to see what was taking so long, they said. Both said soon after he went in they heard yelling and screaming, so they went in to investigate.
Halfway up the stairs they saw Brummett with a towel on his neck, talking with Jenkins, so they fled the scene. Jenkins soon followed, and they went back to their motel room.
One co-worker testified that on the ride back Jenkins told them he wished he had not done what he did and that he wouldn't have had the man not had him in a headlock. The witness said Jenkins did not elaborate on what he did.
Lt. Doug Parsons with the Pennington Gap Police Department testified that after obtaining statements at the scene, he notified the Lee County Sheriff's Department to be on the lookout for the vehicle the assailant was in. A short time later, Parsons said, he was notified the vehicle was at Jonesville Motor Lodge, so he and Chief Mike Nunley and two deputies went to the motel to check the two rooms occupied by the construction workers.
There, Parsons said, they located Jenkins hiding between the box springs and mattress of one of the beds in the room.
Jenkins took the stand in his defense and told the court that he was working construction in the county that day and after work he and his co-workers went to the apartment complex, where other construction workers had told them they could find prostitutes. According to his story, the driver blew the horn, and a woman came out and agreed to take them to another residence where they could find two other women. While they were talking, he said, Chancy Brummett came out and spoke to the woman, and she advised him that the man was her brother.
When the group arrived at the other place, nobody was there so they returned to the Old Mill Apartments, he said. At that point, he gave the woman $100 and she went into the building. When she did not return, Jenkins said, he went in to see what was taking so long. He went to one apartment where he spoke with the resident, described the woman and said he believed that she lived with her brother. The resident then told him the two lived on the top floor, so he went to the Meeker apartment.
Jenkins said when he did not find the woman there, he went back to the first apartment and was told the correct apartment to find the Brummetts.
He claimed that when he knocked on the door Chancy Brummett denied that anyone was there, invited him in to see, then put him in a headlock and advised him that if he wanted to get back to Tennessee, he should forget about the money and go. At that point, Jenkins testified, he noticed Meeker in the room with something in his hand.
Jenkins claimed that he drew a utility knife and sliced Brummett's neck in order to gain his freedom. The tactic worked and Brummett released him, so he backed his way out of the apartment and left after seeing his co-workers coming up the steps, Jenkins said.
He fled the scene and tried to hide from police because he was in a strange place and was scared, Jenkins claimed, not because he was guilty of an unprovoked attack. He acknowledged that while he believed he was a victim of an attack, he did not call police.
During closing arguments, Commonwealth's Attorney Shawn Hines argued that Jenkins' actions were those of a guilty man not those of a victim. He told the jury that someone lied on the stand during the trial and encouraged them to consider who had the motive to lie and who did not.
Defense attorney Tom Rasnick agreed that the crux of the case was the credibility of the witnesses and pointed out that even Jenkins' co-workers' testimony helped substantiate portions of his testimony. He flatly declared that his client was stupid for following a prostitute into a strange building and for trying to hide in the bed from police, but declared that stupidity is not a crime.