Kingsport murder nets boyfriend 35 years

Sammy Sandidge

BLOUNTVILLE — A Kingsport man who fatally bludgeoned his girlfriend with her oxygen tank — then stayed with her body in their apartment for days — has been handed an effective life sentence in prison.

On Monday in Sullivan County Criminal Court, Sammy R. Sandidge, 67, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Judge William Rodgers then sentenced Sandidge to serve 100 percent of 35 years in state custody.

Last summer, Sandidge was arrested in the death of Mary A. Danner, 68. On Aug. 2, her body was discovered in their shared residence at Maple Oaks Apartments, located on Oak Street off East Center Street.

According to an affidavit filed by a detective with the Kingsport Police Department, employees of the complex were conducting monthly maintenance checks. When they entered Sandidge’s apartment, they were “overwhelmed by a bad smell” and backed out.

Police were called and responded to find the body. After speaking with neighbors, police determined Sandidge was likely the last person with Danner and was probably responsible for the death. He was quickly located when detectives tracked his cell phone to a Lynn Garden restaurant.

Upon being interviewed, Sandidge stated that he and Danner were arguing about her wanting to move to Pennsylvania. Sandidge didn't want to go, according to his account, but she persisted.

“He stated he could not listen to her hassle him anymore,” reads the affidavit.

Sandidge then explained how he killed his girlfriend with an oxygen tank, using it to strike her once in the head. Court records state that when he realized the blow hadn’t been fatal, he hit her with the tank three more times, “then waited three or four minutes for her to take her last breath.”

Sandidge stated that he stayed at the apartment for three days after the murder occurred. Neighbors told police that when they asked about Danner's whereabouts, he claimed she was with family in Pennsylvania.

Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Emily Hutchins said the state is satisfied with the 35 years Sandidge was sentenced to serve.

Hutchins added that at the time of the murder, Sandidge was on probation — for trying to obtain a controlled substance by fraud, along with failure to appear — and after Danner's slaying, he stole and used her credit cards. He also pleaded guilty to charges related to those offenses.