Massengill court case to be heard by grand jury

Published 5:15 pm Tuesday, March 16, 2021

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Family members of Aaron Massengill sit quietly in the court room at the Claiborne County Justice Center, March 16 as the three individuals in connection with the murder of Massengill had their first appearance in front of the Honorable Judge Robert M. Estep, Claiborne County General Sessions Court.

The first order of business was a motion filed to limit media access, particularly video as lawyers stated it would be hard to establish a jury pool due to all the media surrounding the case.

Judge Estep heard the argument but denied the motion and video cameras were allowed.

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The three accused, Patrick Smith, Courtney Gilpin and Jimmy Riffe and their attorneys watched as witnesses were presented.

The opening witness was Charles Daughtery. Daughtery testified that he was present in the house where the three allegedly plotted to rob Massengill.

Fearing something bad was going to happen he took his dog to a bedroom where he heard someone come in and soon after heard a this and a firecracker type noise.

Daughtery stated that he didn’t really know the three accused that well but was able to point them out.

He also told the court that Courtney Gilpin had allegedly intended to rob Massengill at the house and when he found out he took his dog into the bedroom.

Daughtery said, “I heard Gilpin say that Massengill had raped her and several others in town. I didn’t want any part of it.”

From the bedroom, Daughtery heard Gilpin invite someone to enter the home and then heard a loud thump.

Daughtery stated he heard Patrick say, “You’ll think about this next time you rape someone.”

A few seconds went by and Daughtery heard the firecracker noise.

“At that point I was scared to death,” said Daughtery.

Daughtery’s wife Jolene Burchfield also testified and stated that she thought the dog had ran out the door and she went after it.

As she approached the door on return she heard what she thought to be a gun shot. She talked about what she heard after that, “I heard a voice saying, “You shot me!” and I just froze.”

Burchfield testified that the door opened and she saw Gilpin holding a gun. Gilpin according to Burchfield also told her that she better not tell anyone.

At that point, Burchfield saw a body laying down in the living room covered with a blanket that was once on her couch.

Burchfield then testified she later heard a vehicle drive off and thought it was Gilpin, Smith and Riffe but a defense attorney made her admit she didn’t know exactly who left in the truck.

The next witness was Becky Adams. She also testified that Gilpin had allegedly set up a plot to rob Massengill and asked her if she wanted to take part. Adams said, “I had a bad feeling about it and got up and left the house.”

A defense attorney asked Adams if she would consider the home to be a crack house. They had asked the previous two witnesses the same question and they all somewhat agreed.

The final witness of the day was Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department Detective Bradley Duncan.

He spoke about how the missing person search for Aaron turned into a murder investigation in detail.

According to Detective Duncan, the body was found with lacerations and contusions to the head area, scratches to the back with signs of animal predation in addition to the gunshot wound.

The lack of rigor mortis was discussed as well as why it wasn’t prevalent at the time the body was found. Duncan said the cold temperatures and snow may have been the reason.

Duncan also stated the CCSD had found a gun, a Hi Point Carbine, but did not know at this time if it was the murder weapon and the TBI was working on all the forensics.

Judge Estep had heard enough and after all the questioning was complete all three were bound over to the grand jury at a yet to be determined date.

Video: Jolene Burchfield tells the court about the moment she knew someone had been shot