July 4 murder case bound to grand jury
Published 8:57 am Thursday, October 30, 2014
The case of two Roan Mountain teens charged with murder and multiple thefts in connection with a July crime spree has been bound over to a Carter County grand jury.
Anthony Lacy, 18, and Demetrice Cordell, 19, appeared in General Sessions Court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing. Each has been charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, evading arrest, three counts of burglary and seven counts of theft of property.
Lacy and Cordell were arrested July 4 after what then-Sheriff Chris Mathes described as a “crime spree” that began during the late night hours of July 3 and continued through the early morning hours of July 4, ultimately leading to a house at 670 Heaton Creek Road, where 56-year-old Danny Vance was killed.
He said reports of those other crimes assisted his officers in solving Vance’s slaying.
In court Wednesday, Judge Keith Bowers listened to testimony from several officers involved in the investigation, but neither Lacy or Cordell took the stand.
During the hearing, Assistant Public Defender Melanie Sellers, who represents Cordell, and attorney Patrick Denton, who represents Lacy, questioned officers about their investigation and how Cordell and Lacy became their suspects.
Investigator James Stevens testified that as officers investigated a series of burglaries and other crimes in Roan Mountain, witnesses led them to Cordell.
He cited one case in particular where a woman called police to report a suspicious man at her residence. Stevens said the woman reported she heard her dog barking and when she looked out, she saw a young black man step onto her porch.
“She said she secured her door and spoke to him through the window,” Stevens said, adding that the woman reported she believed the man was related to Wade Cordell, who lived near her home.
Special Agent Brian Fraley of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said another victim reported seeing Demetrice Cordell steal an all-terrain vehicle from his property.
“(He) knew (Demetrice) Cordell,” Fraley said in response to a question regarding how the victim identified Demetrice Cordell. “He had frequented their home and ridden ATVs there.”
The officers testified that once Demetrice Cordell became a suspect, Stevens went to the home of Wade Cordell, Demetrice’s grandfather, on Hampton Creek Road to try to find Demetrice Cordell.
Stevens said that when he arrived at the home, he spoke with Wade Cordell and described the person he was looking for. “He said ‘That sounds like my grandson,’ and he hollered for him and he came to the door,” Stevens said, adding that while speaking with Demetrice Cordell and Wade Cordell, Anthony Lacy also came to the door.
During his testimony, Stevens said his primary reason for going to the home on Hampton Creek Road was to try to find Demetrice Cordell and to search for firearms because guns were reported missing from the homicide scene.
Stevens said Wade Cordell gave him written permission to search the home, saying there were no guns inside.
Stevens said that while he searched the home, Demetrice Cordell, Lacy and Wade Cordell remained outside on the porch. He said he found gun inside a handbag on the floor of a bedroom closet.
After finding the gun, Stevens said, he radioed for assistance and returned to the porch to find Lacy and Demetrice Cordell had fled.
Officers later found the pair near Lacy’s home on Townson Road, where the two men were taken into custody.
TBI Agent Fraley testified that after Cordell and Lacy were taken into custody, he and Carter County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Mike Little interviewed the suspects separately and each admitted to their involvement in Vance’s murder.
Fraley said Lacy’s confession stuck out in his mind.
“(Lacy) admitted to killing Mr. Vance by striking him in the head twice with a rock, stopping only when the rock broke, yet he wouldn’t admit to stealing or breaking into a car. That fascinated me,” Fraley said. “Without any pressing questions, he went into his story about killing Mr. Vance.” He said the autopsy revealed Vance died of blunt force trauma to the head.
Demetrice Cordell said he and Lacy went to Vance’s home to rob it because Lacy knew Vance and knew he had guns at his home, Fraley said, adding that both men told officers Vance came out with a handgun and that is when Lacy struck Vance in the head with the rock.
During their interviews, Fraley said Demetrice Cordell and Lacy provided information about the thefts and burglaries they ultimately were charged with.
Denton asked Fraley whether officers considered the possibility that Cordell and Lacy killed Vance in self-defense.
“The massive trauma was on the back of the head, a 2-inch gash that fractured his skull in numerous places,” Fraley said. “If that’s self-defense, how does that blow get on the back of the head?” Neither Lacy nor Demetrice Cordell mentioned self-defense during their interviews, Fraley added.
After testimony concluded Wednesday, Bowers said he found probable cause for the charges and bound the case over to a Carter County grand jury.