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Local News

July 12, 2013

Potter-Spicer gets 32-year sentence

Williamsburg man guilty of attempted murder, first-degree assault

CORBIN — By John L. Ross/Staff Writer

Guilty of attempted murder and first-degree assault – that’s the verdict against a man now convicted of stabbing his former girlfriend more than a dozen times in a February assault that left the mother of three on the brink of death.

That same jury also handed down a 32-year sentence.

During the second day of the trial before Judge Dan Ballou in Whitley County Circuit Court for 30-year-old Anthony Potter-Spicer, four people were called to testify.

And the first one to take the stand Thursday was the victim – Ashley Warren, Potter-Spicer’s former girlfriend.

Dressed in the same red color of outfit as she was wearing the night of the attack and bearing the scars, Warren took the stand and first faced questioning from Commonwealth Attorney Allen Trimble.

Warren testified that she had known Potter-Spicer for about five years. She stated their relationship “was very unhealthy” and like “a rollercoaster.”

She added the two lived together on-again, off-again during their relationship.

Trimble asked what “unhealthy” meant.

“There was a lot of fighting,” Warren said, adding that Potter-Spicer “had a drug addiction” which took money from the family and caused them “hard times.”

She also testified when things got bad enough, she would “make him leave” their home, but then eventually let him return.

She further testified that at the time of the February attack, the two were not living together and had not been together since October.

Jurors heard again the two had one child together.

Warren testified that while the romantic relationship between her and Potter-Spicer was over, she never wanted to keep the children from him, especially their child.

She also said that she would give him rides from time to time.

However, over time, Warren testified things changed.

“I pretty much quit doing (things) for him,” she said, adding when that stopped, he began to harass her at her place of employment and continuously call her cell phone.

Warren then stated that on the day of the attack, she had to work. She said “during the day while she was at work, he’d call my cell.”

He kept on doing it, she testified, until she decided to turn off the cell phone.

“I turned the cell phone back on later on that night,” Warren said. “(That’s) how I learned my house was on fire.”

She told jurors that after learning of the blaze at her Green Valley Road home, she went there and found the fire had been extinguished.

She also found Potter-Spicer there.

“We argued,” she said. “I felt he had no right to be there.”

She added that he had been moving property around, and “my clothes had bleach on them.”

“I was upset he was there,” she said again. “(He had) no business being inside there.”

Jurors then listened to her testimony concerning her giving him a ride to his residence on Skyview Drive.

“He needed a ride home,” Warren said. “I wanted someone to go with me, but I couldn’t get anyone to ride with me.”

Then Trimble asked about the conversation on the ride to Skyview Drive.

Warren sighed, then paused a moment or two.

“(He was saying) that we need to be a family,” Warren said.

But as she turned down the road toward Potter-Spicer’s residence, Warren testified that she saw him “fumbling with some knife.”

She said she asked him why he had the knife.

“(He) didn’t really respond,” Warren said. “(Then) I asked (him) if (he) was going to kill me.”

She added that some other statements were made, including when she asked him if “he’d really take me away from my kids.” She then testified those statements were followed up by Potter-Spicer saying, “quit being dramatic.”

Warren testified she saw him holding the black-handled knife against the passenger door.

Trimble then referred to previous testimony offered concerning a jail interview of Potter-Spicer conducted by a television station, which had already been viewed by jurors and added to evidence.

During that interview, Potter-Spicer told the reporter that he got angry the night of the attack because Warren had admitted to cheating on him.

This brought an objection from Potter-Spicer’s defense attorney, Jim Wren, which led to a “silent conference” at the judge’s bench.

Once that issue was settled, Trimble continued questioning Warren — and learned the cheating accusation was untrue.

Trimble questioned her about Potter-Spicer’s “demeanor” during the drive to his residence the night of the attack.

After a long pause, Warren said he “was very agitated,” and that they were arguing.

“He was accusing me of being with someone,” she testified.

Once they arrived at the residence, Warren testified that Potter-Spicer “wouldn’t get out” of her vehicle.

She added that he was “talking about getting to be a family” again, and that “he was crying (saying) he loved me and did not want to be without me.”

“I (told him) we were not good for each other,” Warren said. “(When he realized) I was not saying ‘I love you’ back…he got angry.”

She said he started trying to take her cell phone from her. “Then I tried to get him to get out,” Warren testified, adding the two kept arguing back and forth. “I knew I had to get out.”

She explained Potter-Spicer’s anger “got worse,” and that she saw “the look in his eyes,” adding that she knew him enough to know she could “tell something was about to happen.”

Warren said she got out of the car and ran to a neighbor’s house, Betty Bundy, who testified Wednesday during the first day of the trial.

“I started running, and as I was running he tackled me,” she said in a quavery voice. “I hit so hard I lost my breath — I couldn’t breathe.”

She said she knew she was already injured.

“We struggled, and then he was on top of me with (his) knee in my throat,” Warren said. “Then he pulled that knife out — and he began stabbing me with it.”

Several non-verbal emotional responses could be heard in the gallery.

“(He tried) to drag me in the woods (so no one would hear),” Warren testified. “All I could do was scream for help.”

Potter-Spicer stabbed Warren 16 times during the Feb. 22 attack.

“’The last time he stabbed me in the neck,” Warren said, adding that Potter-Spicer told her, “If I can’t have you then nobody can have you.”

After she was attacked, Warren testified she remembered seeing a vehicle’s headlights as it pulled up, and that Bundy had tried to help her during the attack.

Trimble then asked Warren to stand up and point to the places she received stab wounds.

She told jurors while pointing that she was stabbed in the chest, her breasts, both sides of her neck, her back, her “buns,” her right hip, her knee and her hands and arms.

She also testified she knew he had stabbed her 16 times.

“All I could think about was my girls — my three babies,” Warren tearfully testified. “(I was) not sure I (would) ever see them again.”

Trimble asked her if she was lucid during and after the attack. “I was aware,” Warren said. “It was hard to breathe — my lungs were on fire.”

She added that she was concentrating on breathing.

“I remember the ambulance (and the EMS workers) telling me they were going to put me under,” Warren said. “(I told them) if I didn’t make it to tell my girls I love them — and that’s the last thing I remember.”

Warren said the next thing she remembered was waking up in the University of Kentucky Medical Center.

She testified she was hospitalized for a week and went through more than five hours of surgery.

Warren further discussed her injuries.

She said the back wound required several staples, and that two of the three main arteries into her kidney were severed.

She also had to have the lower part of one of her lungs removed. The knife also nicked her spleen and her intestines.

Warren added that when she left the hospital, “my hands were bound up” due to defensive wound injuries, and that she had “30-some staples in my stomach, butt, back…and stitches in my neck.”

She also said she “could not raise her right arm (due to) a partial tear in my rotator cuff.”

During this testimony, Wren offered up several objections.

“(The objections) are noted…and respectfully overruled,” Ballou said.

Then Warren’s current mental condition was questioned by Trimble.

“I have bad anxiety — depression — I don’t sleep at night,” Warren said. “I’m fearful — I used to be a very strong, unfearful (person).”

Not any more.

“(Now), I’m constantly looking over my shoulder,” Warren added.

Wren then stood for his cross-examination of Warren.

The first information to come out during this portion of the trial concerned a woman named Barbara Kellogg and a man named Rodney Brooks.

Kellogg is Potter-Spicer’s mother — it was unclear the relationship of Brooks to the family.

However, Wren said that those two people were part of a confrontation with Potter-Spicer which ended with Potter-Spicer getting shot in the head.

This incident happened during Potter-Spicer’s relationship with Warren, according to Wren, but Warren testified she was not present during that shooting.

Wren asked if Potter-Spicer’s behavior changed after that gunshot wound, to which Warren said she saw that type of similar behavior “before and after” he received that wound.

Wren then brought up earlier testimony where Warren stated their relationship “had good times and bad times” and that there was “a lot of drama in this relationship.”

She testified upon questioning that her sexual relationship with Potter-Spicer ended when their romantic relationship ended in October.

She further testified that he had been good and loving, and that she would allow him to watch the three children while she worked.

However, after the October break-up, Warren testified things changed.

“(I) could see Anthony getting more and more unstable,” she said, adding that he continued abusing drugs. “We broke up over drug use.”

Wren asked if she was the controlling party in their relationship.

“If anybody was controlling it was him,” she said. “(He) cheated on me with four different women.”

“If he was all that bad of a guy, why stay with him,” Wren asked.

“I loved him,” she said.

“And now you have hatred,” asked Wren.

“Yes I do,” Warren testified. “He about took me from my girls.”

Then Wren questioned her about the fire at her Emlyn home the night of the attack, asking if she was accusing Potter-Spicer of starting the blaze. He said that “Anthony was coming over to help you” through the fire.

“That’s how you see it,” she told Wren. “(But I see it) as him using the situation against me like he always did.”

It was then discussed about how the two then fought upon her arrival at her burned-out home. “You were mad about Anthony being there,” Wren said. “(But) then you decide to take him home? Because you love him?”

“Regardless if I was in love (with him or not), he’s the father of my child,” Warren said.

Then questioning began concerning the night of the attack.

“Did you tell him you were going to sleep with another man that night?” Wren asked.

“No,” she said.

Then he asked about the discussion in the car where Potter-Spicer was attempting to reconcile to build a family and was crying and saying he loved her.

“He knows how to turn the tears on when he needs to,” Warren said.

“So he was manipulative?” Wren asked.

“Another woman dropped him off at my house that night — but he’s crying over me,” Warren said.

Once her testimony was complete, the next witness to take the stand was Williamsburg Police Officer Mike Taylor.

He testified that once he arrived on the scene of the stabbing, he noticed what was later determined to be the victim’s car. “The car doors were open,” Taylor said, adding he saw a woman, later determined to be Bundy, “yelling (for me) to help her.”

The “her” was Warren.

“I observed her laying (on the ground),” Taylor explained. “She was very bloody — cut — and stabbed all over.”

He added she couldn’t vocally respond, but she nodded her head that she could hear him.

Taylor testified that he asked Warren “if she knew who did” this to her, and that if it was Potter-Spicer. He told jurors that she said “yes.”

He then added that once a description of what the suspect was wearing, a Be On the Lookout (BOLO) alert for the suspect.

Trimble then brought out the picture of a bloody Warren laying on the grass the night of the attack, asking if this is how Taylor found Warren — to which he replied “yes.”

There were no questions from Wren.

The third witness for the day was Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird, who sat at the Commonwealth’s table during the majority of the trial.

Bird, who said he had been in law enforcement for 19 years and a chief for four, testified he was not on duty the night of the attack.

“I was contacted and made aware there was an armed individual on the loose,” Bird said, adding he came out to the Skyview Drive residence.

Trimble then asked what the protocol was when officers have a description of a suspect after a crime.

“This was different than most (crimes),” Bird said.

He explained that as the crime happened so close to the campus of the University of the Cumberlands, there was concern for the safety of the students there.

The university property borders with the Bundy house — the scene of Warren’s stabbing.

Bird testified that because of the lateness of the hour, and that they wanted to get as many people aware of the situation and whom they were seeking, he requested information be faxed to regional television stations.

Bird also said he advised UC to lock the dormitories down, and officers were dispatched to the campus to warn students.

Then Bird was asked about his activities at the scene of the attack.

“Shortly after I was on scene I spoke briefly with (Bundy) and (Vincent Lawson),” Bird said.

Lawson, 59, also faces one charge of facilitation to commit murder in this case. Lawson owns and lives in the home where Potter-Spicer resided on Skyview Drive.

Bird testified that Lawson had a cell phone and that Potter-Spicer had attempted to call it.

Eventually, Bird said he ended up speaking with Potter-Spicer on that phone, and requested Potter-Spicer turn himself in.

“(I) was informed (by him) that he was in Jellico, (Tenn.),” Bird said, but added that he “could hear sounds consistent with water” in the background. “(He said) he was not turning himself in and that he wanted to kill himself.”

That’s when Bird said Potter-Spicer “hung up on me.”

That’s when AT&T’s assistance was called on.

The telephone company is able to “ping” a cell phone (if it is turned on) to determine where the cell phone is on a Global Positioning System (GPS) map. “The pings were pretty accurate,” Bird testified. “One ping in particular I remember … was right on the bank of the Cumberland River.”

He also testified there were two police service dogs tracking around the scene, and that their trails corresponded with the ping reports from AT&T.

Bird then testified that the dogs tracked the scent back to the basement of Lawson’s residence.

Lawson gave Bird a verbal consent to search his home, and Bird said he looked in the basement and noticed the door was locked from the inside. Then he returned to where Lawson was standing.

“I asked (Lawson) if he had any contact with (Potter-Spicer) — and he denied it,” Bird said.

However, Bird further testified that once he was in the kitchen of Lawson’s residence, he noticed “a bloody washrag” in the sink.

He added there were also visible blood drops on the carpet.

Bird said he returned to the basement, where he smelled the strong odor of cigarette smoke and saw a cell phone with the battery removed on the bed.

The chief then stated that the Kentucky State Police provided one of the K-9 units for the search, and that dog was brought to the basement. After several warnings for Potter-Spicer to surrender without a response, the K-9 was let loose to capture him, according to Bird.

Further evidence presented during Bird’s testimony included two pictures of the bed Potter-Spicer was found under as well as the cell phone without the battery in it or the back on it.

Bird also testified about Potter-Spicer’s appearance after his arrest.

“His clothes were bloody — his jeans were very bloody,” Bird said. “He had some very serious cuts on both of his hands. He was wet — and bloody.”

He added that the defendant’s clothes were preserved as evidence, and Trimble provided three more pictures for evidence showing the clothes Potter-Spicer wore the night of the attack.

Bird testified that the pursuit lasted four to five hours, and that Williamsburg Police Detective Bobby Freeman was assigned to lead the investigation.

Wren asked several questions in reference to Potter-Spicer’s state of mind when he attacked Warren, implying that possibly Potter-Spicer was “under extreme emotional distress,” which could have caused the attack.

Bird denied that, stating that Potter-Spicer was aware of his circumstances that night in February.

Wren also questioned whether Potter-Spicer’s hand injuries were considered self-inflicted.

“It appeared to me (they happened) during the attack,” Bird answered.

Once Bird was finished with his testimony, it was time for the fourth and final witness for the day — Freeman.

He testified that he arrived on scene around the time the ambulance was to leave with Warren. He also discussed procedure when arriving at a crime scene — check on the victim(s), try to talk to any witnesses, and take pictures of and secure the scene.

Trimble then provided five pictures to add as evidence — one of the area where Warren was found, one with Bundy’s house and Warren’s car, one with just Warren’s car with the doors open, one of the floorboard housing Warren’s purse, and another picture of the house where the crime occurred.

He testified that prior to finding Potter-Spicer, he was interviewing witnesses, including Bundy, but that he ended up at the Lawson home with Bird.

He testified that he also saw the bloody wash rag in the kitchen. The remainder of Freeman’s testimony backed up what Bird had said earlier in court.

Wren had no questions for this witness either.

With that, the jury was excused for lunch, however, as the last of the jurors walked from the courtroom, Wren said there were motions he wanted to address out of earshot of the jury.

Wren then began a discussion concerning double jeopardy and the fact Potter-Spicer was being tried on a two-count indictment charging attempted murder and first-degree assault. “You can’t rely on the same set of facts to convict on both counts,” Wren said.

Ballou felt they were considered two separate acts.

But Wren argued that point, reiterating the point concerning double jeopardy. Using a case sample, Wren explained that either the jury must convict on attempted murder or first-degree assault. Wren pushed for the court to choose between the two.

However, Ballou overruled Wren’s motion.

Trimble explained the Commonwealth’s view of the attack and the nature of the charges against Potter-Spicer. “That’s exactly what the Commonwealth (will) argue in this case,” Trimble said. “He knew he was going to try to kill her.”

He then discussed the 16 stab wounds.

“Fifteen of them (stab wounds) are assault in the first,” Trimble said. “The last one – that’s the criminal attempt to commit murder.”

All of Wren’s motions were overruled by Ballou, but Wren did request the judge provide the jury special instructions. “(You) have to give cautionary instruction,” Wren said. “The evidence (needs to be) looked at independently in both charges.”

Ballou said he understood his point of view.

Wren then discussed Potter-Spicer’s mental state at the time of the attack. “Every witness (who has been called on the stand) has given some credence to (Potter-Spicer’s) extreme emotional disturbance,” Wren said.

Then the surprise came.

Potter-Spicer and Wren approached the podium before Judge Ballou. Wren stated that against his advice, Potter-Spicer was not going to testify in his own defense.

Nor was any defense testimony going to be offered, also against Wren’s advice.

Ballou asked why he didn’t want to put forth any proof. “(I) don’t want to be up on the stand,” Potter-Spicer said. It was also mentioned that “the press” was in the room, and he didn’t want to further hurt Warren with this.

After the lunch break, court reconvened about 1 p.m.

After learning that defense rested, jurors were instructed on how to reach a verdict.

There were two counts against Potter-Spicer — attempted murder and first-degree assault.

Ballou explained to jurors that in each count, they had to determine whether Potter-Spicer was guilty of that crime, or the crime of assault under extreme emotional distress.

The jurors were also instructed to look at the first 15 stab wounds as the first-degree assault charge, and the final stab wound be looked at as attempted murder.

Then the two attorneys offered their closing statements. Wren pushed for jurors to find Potter-Spicer guilty of assault through extreme emotional distress. “There’s a difference between justice and revenge,” Wren said.

He also questioned her decisions that night when she gave Potter-Spicer a ride home.  “If she felt threatened at all at that time, (then that’s) absolutely inconsistent with her conduct that night,” Wren said. “Any rational woman would have said no.”

He finished with asking jurors to find him guilty of the other charges concerning extreme emotional distress. “That is the just result — that is the right result — and fundamentally the fair result,” Wren said.

Then Trimble began his closing statement, starting with again displaying the picture of Warren the night Potter-Spicer stabbed her.

Except this time the photo was smaller, to include some quotes — one from Warren saying, “Tell my children I love them,” and one from Potter-Spicer saying,” Love makes you do crazy things.”

Trimble argued that Potter-Spicer was not in extreme emotional distress because of his actions that night.

He then referred to the photo, and stated the only thing in common in those quotes was the word, “love.”

“One (shows) a mother’s love for her children, the other love was used as justification to stab a woman 16 times,” Trimble said.

He also noted his “offense” to the things Wren stated in his closing statement.

“He was mad,” Trimble said. “He was mad at her.”

He then beat his hand 15 times on the podium, asking jurors “to think about” being stabbed that many times.

“She wasn’t saying ‘objection,’” Trimble said. “She was pleading for her life.”

The eight-woman, five-man jury then waited for the alternate to be drawn, which left the jury with 12 members — eight women and four men.

In less than an hour those jurors came back in the courtroom with a guilty verdict on both counts.

Jurors then broke again for sentencing.

When they returned, it was learned Potter-Spicer would receive 20 years for the attempted murder conviction, and 12 years for the first-degree assault conviction.

He will also have to serve 85 percent of the sentence.

After the trial ended, Wren said “the jury has spoken.”

“I understand but don’t necessarily agree (with their decision),” he said. “But (we) have to respect it — the evidence supported the jury’s verdict.”

He added he was not surprised by the jury’s decision.

“We definitely will appeal,” Wren vowed, adding it would be on the grounds of “one course of action” during the attack as well as the double-jeopardy clause.

Warren offered a very brief statement after the trial as she was leaving for home. “I’m glad that justice was served,” she said, surrounded by friends and family. She also thanked all those involved in helping this case come to an end.

“It was an appropriate verdict,” Trimble said. “This was a very serious case (and the) jury did a good job — the sentence rendered was most appropriate.”

Lawson has yet to go on trial for his alleged role in the attack. He remains free on bond.

Potter-Spicer was remanded back into the custody of the Whitley County Detention Center.

His official sentencing hearing is slated for Sept. 3.

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