Hurst gets life for a life

Published 9:20 am Thursday, February 28, 2019

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Vanassa Ann Hurst will have at least five decades in which to contemplate her part in the murder of Clairfield resident Hershel Gully. Claiborne criminal court judge Shayne Sexton sentenced Hurst to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 51 years.

Hurst was convicted last October of both 1st and 2nd degree murder, under alternate theories. She received a mandatory life sentence under the 1st degree conviction. The hearing on Feb. 25 netted an additional 19 years on the 2nd degree murder charge. Under Tennessee law, the two sentences ‘merge.’

Hurst was one of six participants in the Nov. 26, 2015 incident that began with an E911 call involving an alleged attempted rape. Sgt. Jason Henegar and deputy sheriff Blake Laws responded to Tracy Branch Road in Clairfield, where they spotted Hurst walking along the roadway.

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According to the CCSO Incident Report, Hurst told the officers that an “older white male” she did not know had stopped and offered her a ride. After traveling a short distance, Hurst claimed in her initial statement that Gully had pulled the vehicle off the road.

“…he asked Ms. Hurst what he was going to get in return for the ride. Ms. Hurst stated that at that point she attempted to exit the vehicle but the male subject grabbed her by the front of her shirt in an attempt to keep her inside the vehicle. Ms. Hurst then stated she began punching and kicking the male subject and sprayed him with pepper spray. Ms. Hurst then stated she was then able to exit the vehicle and run away,” reads the incident report, in part.

At that point, Hurst told the officers that Gully pulled back onto the road and drove off.

Around 1 a.m., the officers took a second call involving a man lying on the front lawn of a nearby residence. The man had been found unconscious and obviously beaten.

Upon arrival, the officers found Gully, who they determined was deceased.

“The victim’s head and face had bruising, he was bleeding from his right ear and had multiple bruises and swelling about his head and face,” reads the report.

The second call was made by Tommy Lynn Hurst, who was later indicted along with the other suspects in this case. According to the report, Hurst said he had been awakened by loud noises coming from outside his home.

He said he looked outside and saw two males and three females kicking Gully, who was on the ground. According to the incident report, Tommy Hurst witnessed a woman pulling items from Gully’s pockets. Members of the group saw Hurst and ran in different directions, the report states.

At the time of the investigation, Hurst tentatively identified his niece, Vanassa Hurst, as one of the members of the group.

Deputy sheriff Carl Mozingo recovered Gully’s vehicle parked in a church lot near the Tennessee/Kentucky border. The Ford Explorer had a freshly broken passenger side tail light and items were strewn about the ground. There were signs of a struggle in and nearby the vehicle, according to the report.

The report stated that Hurst later confessed that she had made a false report during her E911 call. She said she and another female participant had willingly gone with Gully, earlier in the evening.

Detective Brad Duncan represented this case on behalf of the Claiborne Sheriff’s Office. Attorney general Jared Effler and assistant district attorneys Graham Wilson and Matthew McClung represented Tennessee, in this case.