By Max Hrenda
On Tuesday morning, a Carter County jury was offered two versions – one from prosecutors and one from the defendant – of a story that ended with Edward Zane Church being treated for stabbing injuries at Johnson City Medical Center.
In the first day of the trial of Danita Whitehead on a charge of attempted second-degree murder, testimony centered on the circumstances around an incident that sent a Hampton man to a local hospital with multiple knife wounds.
On Sept. 28, 2011, members of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and Carter County Emergency and Rescue Squad arrived at the home at 254 Stout Hollow Road in Hampton after a 911 call reported that Church had been stabbed.
CCSD Investigator Travis Ludlow, who responded to the scene, testified that, though he did not see Church that night, he had named his assailant.
“Before he was taken to the hospital, he told responding officers that he had been stabbed by his estranged wife,” Ludlow said.
In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney General Dennis Brooks said Church told Ludlow and the CCSD that he had been arguing with Whitehead, with whom he was in the midst of divorce proceedings, before the argument escalated to a violent end.
“Mr. Church will tell you he was standing in the kitchen eating a hamburger when the defendant goes up to the butcher block, gets a knife out, and comes after him,” Brooks said. “He had to grab the blade of one knife with his hand and break it from the handle to defend himself. … She came at him with another knife, and she got him.”
Church told investigators he then escaped and ran to a neighbor’s house. He was later treated for lacerations to his left hand and ring finger, and a puncture wound to his upper left torso area.
Later that night, however, Whitehead told Ludlow and Capt. Tom Smith that it was Church who had attacked her, and the injuries he sustained were either self-inflicted or had resulted from her fighting him off.
In court, jurors were shown the video of Whitehead’s interview at the sheriff’s office wherein she described the incident to Ludlow and Smith.