His Decision Follows
In June 30 Killing Of
Scotty Wayne Tilson
BY KEN LITTLE
The exact facts behind the death of Scotty Wayne Tilson may never be known, but Greene County General Sessions Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr. found enough probable cause Friday at a preliminary hearing to bind the case against Phil Allen Guinn over to a grand jury on a second-degree murder charge.
The state argued for the more serious charge of first-degree murder, contending during the four-hour hearing that Guinn, 47, acted with premeditation and sought to rob Tilson early June 30 at his single-wide mobile home at 95 Mary Lamons Road in Afton.
The hearing had many elements of a trial, with relatives of Guinn offering emotional testimony about the events leading up to the death of Tilson.
Sheriff's deputies who arrived after the stabbing and conducted the investigation after Tilson's death also testified, and played a one-hour taped interview with Guinn from July 1.
At the time of the interview, Guinn was still in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in the confrontation with Tilson, and had not been charged.
Tilson, 36, died after being stabbed in the back, but not before he identified Guinn as his assailant to sheriff's Lt. Terry Rader, Rader testified.
Deputies were dispatched after Tilson called 911 to report he had been stabbed.
'A LOT OF BLOOD'
Rader said he saw "a lot of blood" in the living room, the hallway and the bedroom of the trailer, where he found Tilson lying on a bed.
"I tried to keep him calm. He was very excited," Rader told Assistant District Attorney General Cecil Mills Jr., who prosecuted the case for the state at the hearing.
Rader saw apparent stab wounds on Tilson. Bailey examined photographs taken at the scene of a knife wound to Tilson's back.
"There was a large stab wound about halfway down his back," Rader said.
Rader also photographed a baseball bat found in the road about 100 feet from the mobile home.
While waiting for Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services to arrive to attend to Tilson, Rader testified he attempted to "calm him down."
Meanwhile, a cell phone rang in another room. The cell phone was answered by Deputy Jeff Caudill.
Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Douglas L. Payne, Rader said that the caller asked if her father was in trouble.
"I heard Officer Caudill say 'Phil Guinn,'" Rader told Mills in testimony earlier in the hearing.
VICTIM IDENTIFIES GUINN
Meanwhile, Tilson was becoming "more unresponsive," Rader said.
"I said, 'Did Phil Guinn do this?' He said, 'That's the one that did this,'" Rader testified.
Rader also said that he followed a blood trail from the mobile home to the bat in the road.
"There was probably another 80 to 100 feet of blood dripping up the road," he said.
EMS personnel treated Tilson at his home, but he later died from his injuries.
The autopsy report said Tilson died from "sharp and blunt force injury," Mills told Judge Bailey.
ONE-HOUR TAPED INTERVIEW
Also testifying for the prosecution was sheriff's detective Sgt. Jason Taylor, the lead investigator on the case.
Taylor played a one-hour taped interview with Guinn at Holston Valley Medical Center recorded on July 1. Guinn was not formally charged with first-degree murder until July 11, after he was released from the hospital.
Taylor testified that a knife handle was found in the living room. The bat, about three feet long, "appeared to be wrapped in electrical tape," he added.
In a first hospital interview on June 30, Guinn said he paid a Hispanic man $3 to give him a ride to the trailer, and Tilson stabbed him in the hand when he went to the trailer door, Taylor testified.
In the second interview, on July 1, Guinn offered conflicting versions of what occurred at the mobile home, including who gave him a ride there.
Guinn testified that his step-daughter, Chassidy Cox, gave him a ride to the mobile home, even though son Allen Guinn earlier told detectives he himself had driven his father to the scene.
Guinn repeated his claim that when he went to the door, Tilson stabbed him in the hand before the men struggled together.
Guinn said in the taped interview that he had drunk six beers earlier in the day. He admitted he "got in a fight" with Tilson.
"We never made it to the living room. We started fighting right there at the back door," he said.
Guinn said Tilson pushed him out the door, and he wasn't aware of Tilson's injuries.
"I got up and kept going," he said.
Testimony showed that Tilson and Cox were involved in an intermittent relationship.
Her grandfather and the defendant's father, Phillip Guinn Sr., testified Friday that Cox had confided in him on June 29 that she had been sexually abused by Tilson.
That revelation could have been within earshot of Guinn, who was sitting near the truck where the two were sitting, at a Little League baseball game in Morristown in which Cox's son was playing.
On the tape, Taylor asked Guinn to describe the fight with Tilson.
"You got me in a black spot. I got hit a couple times in the head, and I just tried to stay alive," he said. "I tried to turn [the knife] away from me [and] he had his bands on my throat."
Guinn was asked by detectives where Tilson was injured.
"I got him somewhere, I don't know. It was his knife in his hands," Guinn said in the tape.
Guinn stuck to his contention that Cox drove him to the house, not his son, Allen Guinn.
Hearing testimony suggested that Guinn forced Allen Guinn to drive him to Tilson's trailer so he could confront him about the alleged sexual abuse of Cox.
Detectives repeatedly asked Guinn during their July 1 interview if his real motivation was to rob Tilson.
None of Tilson's property was later found where Guinn was living or in his son's car, Payne said.
Cox and Allen Guinn later testified that their father intended to rob Tilson.
Cox testified that she had moved out of Tilson's mobile home and was living with her mother.
On June 29 after Cox had spoken with her grandfather about the alleged sexual abuse by Tilson, Cox testified that Guinn told her she had "saved his life" because he and two other men were planning to rob Tilson several months earlier on a day she had moved back in with him after a separation.
In the interview, detectives offered Guinn a version of events that prosecutors believe is close to the truth.
"When you came to the door with the ball bat, he didn't have nothing [and] he backed up to the living room" where a large knife was on a table, Taylor said in the statement.
Guinn was asked during the interview when Tilson was "cut."
His response was confused.
"I was inside the house. I don't know whether he was in the door or not," Guinn said.
Guinn asked for a lawyer and the interview ended soon after that.
Under cross-examination by Payne, Taylor said three guns were found inside the mobile home.
"From my investigation, I do not believe Mr. Guinn took a knife to the house with him. The one that was recovered was inside Scotty Tilson's house," Taylor said.
Allen Guinn, called to the stand by Payne, testified that his father woke him up early June 30 and forced him to drive him to Tilson's trailer.
Allen Guinn said that no more than five minutes elapsed from the time he dropped his father off to the time he was picked up.
Phillip Guinn was covered in blood when he got back into the car, his son testified.
"All he would say is, 'He got me,'" Allen Guinn testified in answer to Payne's questions.
Allen Guinn drove his father to his mother's house in Greeneville, where Chassidy Cox was staying, and asked Cox to take him to the hospital.
She drove him to Takoma Regional Hospital. Guinn was later transferred to Holston Valley Medical Center.
Under cross-examination by Mills, Allen Guinn testified that his father threatened to steal his son's car if he did not drive him to Tilson's mobile home.
IN FEAR OF FATHER
Both Allen Guinn and Cox said they were afraid of Guinn, who slowly shook his head during this testimony.
Cox took the stand and stated that Tilson sexually abused her while she was sleeping in his bedroom. The abuse happened three times, and the third time she moved out, Cox testified.
Cox lost her composure on the stand, and Bailey declared a short recess.
Cox told Payne that her stepfather did ask her about the abuse on June 30.
"I was just like, 'Dad, let it go.' I didn't want to relive it. I didn't want to go into details with him," she said.
Under cross-examination, Cox said she had an intimate relationship with Tilson.
After moving out of his mobile home, she had asked Tilson to go to the Little League baseball game in Morristown with her on June 29.
"We loved each other," she said. "I still love him today."
'A GOOD MAN'
Cox told Mills that when she told investigators that Guinn intended to rob Tilson, it was "just an opinion."
"You told them that Scotty was a good person?" Mills asked.
"He was a good man, and he didn't deserve to die," Cox said.
Payne asked Cox if she felt any guilt for telling family members about the abuse, and what happened as a result.
"No, I don't feel like I'm the reason it happened. I didn't ask my dad to go out there," she said.
This was the only time during the lengthy proceeding when Guinn appeared agitated.
After the hearing testimony concluded, Payne argued that evidence presented by the state did not justify the charge of first-degree murder.
"This case is charged very clearly as a first-degree [murder]. I believe the state has failed at a very low level to get it to that," he said.
Payne said that, at most, the evidence indicates second-degree murder or, more likely, voluntary manslaughter.
In a counter-argument, Mills responded that premeditation, one theory of first-degree murder, "can be formed in a second."
Mills said there was also enough evidence to show intent to commit a robbery, another first-degree-murder theory.
He also said that Guinn's interview with detectives was full of inconsistencies.
"He went all the way to 'I didn't stab him' to 'I only stabbed him once,'" Mills said.
Guinn "wasn't going to go to play baseball with the bat," Mills said. "For the purpose of probable cause, I think there's at least enough evidence to show first-degree murder."
Bailey said he had some reservations about the premeditated murder argument.
He said that the state had not produced enough testimony that Guinn was at Tilson's mobile home to commit a robbery or burglary.
"I think he went over there to teach [Tilson] a lesson and when he got there, it went bad and he ended up killing him," Bailey said.
"The state has met probable cause for second-degree murder, knowingly killing of another."
Bailey set a first Greene County Criminal Court appearance of Nov. 27 for Guinn, who remains held in the Greene County Detention Center.
Guinn was "totally dishonest" in his interviews with investigators, Bailey said, adding that Guinn is a threat to the community.
Guinn could have received the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.
Although he will be prosecuted for the lesser felony offense of second-degree murder, Bailey took the unusual step of raising Guinn's bond from $500,000 to $600,000.
"Mr. Guinn has left a path of destruction, not only through the Tilson family, but his own family," the judge said.
Guinn's children "are just terrified of him," Bailey said in acknowledging the difficulty they faced in testifying Friday.
During the July 1 taped interview, Guinn said at one point, "I've been in trouble all my life."
He was convicted of second-degree murder in May 1997 and sentenced to 16-1/2 years in prison for the stabbing death of 15-year-old Shannon Story.
The Greeneville High School freshman went missing in September 1996. The decomposed body was found in November 1996 off Baileyton Road.
Guinn was released from prison in December 2012, according to Tennessee Department of Correction records.
The only Tilson relative in court Friday was a cousin, Lisa Dingus.
Dingus was angry after the hearing.
Scotty Tilson was "loved," she said. "Scotty did nothing to deserve this."