Trial delayed for man charged with 7 counts of attempted murder

Published 4:33 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A trial for a Carter County man facing multiple counts of attempted murder has been postponed as attorneys continue to work on the case.

Kelly Lee Pitts, 38, of 433 Dry Hollow Road, faces seven counts of attempted first-degree murder and seven counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in connection with a December 2015 incident where he is accused of shooting at police officers responding to a call.

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Pitts was originally scheduled to stand trial this fall with jury selection slated to begin on Oct. 31, and the trial was expected to last three days.

A motion hearing in the case was held on Sept. 22, and during that hearing, Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street issued a ruling postponing the trial. The trial is now set to begin on April 3, 2018. Pitts will appear in court on Jan. 5, 2018, for a status update in the case.

During the hearing, Street also heard arguments on a motion by the defense to keep the State from entering an audio recording of a telephone conversation between Pitts and his father which Pitts made from the Carter County Detention Center after his arrest.

In the motion to suppress, Pitts’ attorney Greg Norris noted that Pitts’ father passed away in 2016 and therefore could not testify about the content or context of the phone calls and without the benefit of an explanation of the conversations his client would be “unjustly prejudiced” if the jury was allowed to hear the recording.

Norris said because Pitts is the only person alive who could testify about the content and context of the conversation it would essentially force his client to take the witness stand to offer an explanation or to be unjustly prejudiced by the conversation without an explanation.

Following arguments on the motion, Street ruled that portions of the phone conversation will be admissible as evidence at trial, but other portions will be excluded.

The charges against Pitts stem from an incident that began during the evening hours of Dec. 16, 2015, and carried over into the early morning hours on Dec. 17, 2015, in the area of Pitts’ home on Dry Hollow Road.

Officers of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office responded to a complaint of an intoxicated man at 433 Dry Hollow Road who was waving a gun around.

Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford was the first officer to arrive on the scene, and he began speaking to the woman who called 911, Brandy Hyder, and two other area residents — identified as Michael Hyder and Greg Hardin. Lunceford said CCSO Sgt. David Caldwell, Deputy Jason Mosier and Deputy Jenna Markland arrived on scene a short time later.

Before the newly arrived officers could get out of their vehicles, Pitts allegedly opened fire on the officers and civilians. Lunceford said the officers had not been in contact with Pitts and he fired on the group without warning. During the gunfire, Markland suffered two gunshot wounds to her head, and Brandy Hyder received a gunshot wound to her hand.

During the preliminary hearing, Lunceford testified Pitts fired around 25 to 30 rounds at officers, paused for a few seconds and then fired another 25 to 30 rounds. In addition to the two women who were injured, three police vehicles were severely damaged by gunshots, Lunceford said.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Scott Lott testified during the preliminary hearing that agents recovered an AK47 and an SKS assault rifle from Pitts’ home following his arrest. In addition to the rifles, Lott said the forensics team recovered 52 spent shell casings in the same bedroom. Lott said the tests showed that 22 rounds were fired from the AK-47 and 30 rounds were fired from the SKS.