November 27, 2013

Man sentenced to life in prison without parole

Charles Oliver
charlesoliver@daltoncitizen.com

— A Rocky Face man was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus five years on Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Cindy Morris for the stabbing death of a Walker County man earlier this year.

A Whitfield County jury on Monday convicted Jonathan Colby Durden of two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. He had claimed self-defense.

Authorities said Durden stabbed Ricky Grice Jr. multiple times on April 9 when Grice planned to take Durden’s girlfriend, Alexa Blubaugh, away from Durden’s residence — which did not have power or running water — so she could shower.

Durden’s attorney, Jerry Moncus, said Tuesday he plans to appeal the verdict.

“We’ve already started the process. Mr. Durden signed the motion for a new trial while we were in court (Tuesday),” Moncus said. “As soon as the sentence is filed, we’ll file the motion for a new trial and start the appellate process. That will be no later than next week and could be as early as (today).”

Prosecutors said Blubaugh asked Grice to come pick her up because her dog was sick and she wanted to take it to the vet. The dog died before he got there about 2 a.m. on April 9. Blubaugh asked Grice to take her somewhere so she could shower.

Grice had gotten in his truck with Blubaugh to leave when Durden said he wanted to shake Grice’s hand, prosecutors said. Instead, Durden stabbed Grice three times in the chest with a knife with a 5-inch blade, one of which pierced his heart, they said. Grice also had multiple cuts on the face and neck.

Prosecutors said Durden was jealous and believed Blubaugh was going to leave him. Durden told authorities he stabbed Grice because Grice had a gun. Officials with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office said there was a gun in the truck, but it was behind the seat and Grice could not have gotten to it without getting out of the truck and tilting the seat forward.

Tracie Lopez, who identified herself as Durden’s mother, said Tuesday evening, “I’m shocked, my son is a very good son. He’s a very good person. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he feared for his life. I am so sorry for the victim’s family, his mother, she breaks my heart. I pray for her every night.”

But, Lopez said, “I know my son. I know he stabbed somebody to death but I know he feared for his life or he would have never done that. My son is the one all the kids run to because he always takes the time to read them a story, get down on the floor, play with them. He’s not a monster like they said he was today.”

Lopez said she will “stand behind my son to the end. I’ll go to my grave fighting for my son because I know my son. As someone said the other day, ‘To know Jon is to love Jon.’ That’s the type of person Jon is. Maybe he made a mistake thinking ... I don’t know what went on, but I know he would never hurt anybody unless he feared for his life.”

District Attorney Bert Poston did not immediately return a telephone message left at his office Tuesday afternoon.