November 19, 2013

Attorneys: Murder trial likely to exceed a week

Rachel Brown

— Attorneys for both sides said a jury trial to determine whether a Rocky Face man committed murder or stabbed a man to death in self-defense could last more than a week.

Jonathan Durden is on trial in Whitfield County Superior Court in Judge Cindy Morris’ courtroom for the death of Walker County resident Ricky C. Grice Jr. Authorities charged Durden, 22, with 28-year-old Grice’s murder on April 9. Durden has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorney Jerry Moncus said his client was defending himself from Grice — Grice had a gun in his truck at the time — and he believes the facts will prove that. Moncus said if Durden decides to testify, it will likely be at the end of this week, or even the beginning of next week. Authorities have said Durden stabbed Grice with a knife he carried that had a five-inch blade.

Assistant District Attorney Ben Kenemer said he expects the trial to last at least through the end of the week. On Monday after both sides gave opening statements, the court heard testimony from a 911 operator who took the emergency call from Durden’s then-girlfriend who was the first and only person to notify 911 that Grice had been stabbed.

That woman, Alexa Blubaugh, also testified, saying she was planning to leave the trailer where she was living with Durden for a few hours so Grice could take her to get a shower and some food since there was no running water and little food left in the home. She testified Durden seemed to think she was breaking up with him and that he stabbed Grice as they were trying to leave.

Minutes after the stabbing, she told a 911 operator Grice had stopped breathing. Blubaugh testified Grice befriended her after the two met at a gas station in Dalton when she was briefly homeless after a short break-up with Durden. She said she and Grice were only friends.

Moncus has pressed for a speedy trial and protested earlier this year when prosecutors delayed the case an extra month to wait on some evidence to come back from the state’s crime lab.