Johnson City man accused of killing grandmother, wounding grandfather bound over to grand jury

Becky Campbell • Feb 17, 2012 at 9:58 PM

A Johnson City woman stabbed to death in December suffered 27 knife wounds and multiple contusions, according to an autopsy report, and police say her grandson killed her.

Cody Lee Russell, 20, was in Washington County General Sessions Court Friday for a preliminary hearing on charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

He’s accused of killing his grandmother, Frieda Russell, 62, and seriously injuring his grandfather, Clifford Russell, 65, with the same knife.

It happened around 5 p.m. Dec. 8 in the family’s apartment, 512 Swadley Road, Apt. 9.

Cody Russell is the elderly couple’s grandson, but they also had adopted him as an infant, according to testimony from Johnson City Police Investigator Joey Whitlock.

He testified about the statement Cody Russell gave after the stabbings and Assistant District Attorney General Michael Rasnick introduced the autopsy report through the officer as well.

Whitlock testified that Frieda Russell’s injuries documented in that report were consistent with what Cody Russell said he did to her.

Assistant Public Defender Phillip Ratliff objected to Whitlock testifying about the autopsy because he had not performed the procedure or written the report.

After reviewing evidentiary rules, Judge James Nidiffer allowed the report in as evidence.

Many of the knife wounds documented in the report were superficial, but several were described as deeper wounds of 1/2 inch to 2 inches in depth.

There were also documented injuries to her hands, but there was no medical testimony to confirm if those hand wounds would be classified as defensive.

The sharp instrument injuries were mostly on the woman’s front face and neck area while she had several “blunt force” contusions and bruises on her head, neck and upper back.

Ratliff also asked Whitlock about the length of time his client spent being interrogated and if the officer remembered Russell say he didn’t remember what happened.

Whitlock said he would have to review the video of Russell’s interview to know exactly what was said, but indicated he didn’t recall Russell not remembering the incident.

“He was not forthcoming” with information, Whitlock said, so the officer did repeat his questions several times.

The investigator also said he asked Russell about several K2 — an herbal incense also referred to as synthetic marijuana — packages found in his room. Whitlock said Russell said he had smoked the incense the day before the stabbings.

The short statement that is recorded on paper indicates Russell was angry that day because his grandparents argued all the time.

According to the statement, Russell told police he had a knife in his bedroom that he had used when eating a meal the previous day.

“I went into the bathroom across from my bedroom where my mamaw was and stabbed her a few times. I believe I stabbed her in the throat. Then I went into papaw’s bedroom where he was sitting in his recliner. I stabbed him in the throat, too. Papaw fought me for the knife and that’s how I got these cuts on my hand.

“I just freaked out and left after that and I left for a while. I came back to our apartment after a little while,” Whitlock wrote after Russell told him what happened.

Police launched a search for the suspect immediately after arriving on the scene, but didn’t locate Russell. Just as he said, he returned to the scene.

He encountered an investigator who was being interviewed by the Press and was taken into custody.

After hearing Whitlock testify, Nidiffer determined there was probable cause to bind the case over to a grand jury.

Russell is scheduled to appear in criminal court March 15. He remains jailed on a $250,000 bond.

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