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Mother of beating suspect testifies
Jun 15, 2006 12:00 am
June 7, 2006 – The mother of a young woman accused of bludgeoning an elderly man with a hammer said her daughter may have confessed the crime to her.
Paula Chrisman, mother of Kelly Chrisman, told police in a statement Kelly had confessed to beating 71-year-old James Lanier with a claw hammer on May 6, but testified Tuesday she did not recall Kelly's confession.
Kelly Chrisman is charged with criminal attempted homicide, and her case was bound over to a Wilson County grand jury Tuesday.
The victim's daughter, Maxine Hutchinson, said Lanier remained unresponsive at Baptist Hospital in Nashville.
Paula Chrisman said her daughter had come to her home after being released from the Wilson County Jail after questioning and told her about the crime.
"I told the police that Kelly had told me she had done this … (while) in a drugged state of mind," Paula Chrisman said.
However, she said she remained confused about what was actually said in the conversation, admitting she is a patient at a methadone clinic and takes the drug regularly.
"I kept telling them they needed to speak with my husband," Paula Chrisman said. "I was confused."
She said she spoke with her husband, who told her no confession was made in the conversation between the mother and daughter.
"I remember making the statement," the mother said. " … I don't remember having that conversation with Kelly," adding she only remembered "bits and pieces" of the conversation.
"I remember lots of things, but whether this actually happened or not I can't say," Paula Chrisman said. " … If you have a dream, do you remember a dream?"
Under cross-examination by public defender Shelley Thompson, Paula Chrisman said she "felt compelled to do the right thing" in telling police about her daughter's alleged confession.
Tracey Duncan, Lanier's neighbor, testified she saw Kelly Chrisman walking along a fence at Lanier's 226 W. Spring St. home on the morning of May 6.
Duncan told Assistant District Attorney General Tom Swink she saw Chrisman frequently at the Lanier residence, where she said she saw Chrisman walking at a normal pace holding something made of white cloth in her hand and wearing a "red" shirt. She said she had identified Chrisman out of a photo lineup provided by Lebanon police.
Thompson asked Duncan if she was aware Lanier had people in and out of the house "at all hours."
"He has friends," Duncan replied.
When asked if Duncan was aware Lanier sold "illegal liquor" out of his home, Duncan replied with a curt, "No."
Detective Kirk Whitefield of the Lebanon Police Department testified next, saying "a witness" had identified Chrisman from a photo lineup.
When he went looking for Kelly Chrisman, he said he found her at the Holiday Inn Express in Lebanon and transported her to the police department for questioning.
"I asked her about James Lanier," Whitefield said, "… and said she knew him by the nickname 'Duck.'"
He said Chrisman told him she frequently visited the house and had been there on the night of May 5, sitting in a vehicle while her father was in the house.
He said she explained she lost her father's cell phone at Don Fox Community Park and walked to Lanier's Spring Street home the morning of May 6 to call the phone. When no one answered, she said she left the house and returned to the park.
"She said Duck was fine when she left, and that was the last time she saw him that day," Whitefield said.
Chrisman told investigators she was wearing a headband and a South Pole shirt when she left Lanier's. However, a search of her bedroom revealed the receipt for the two items, which were not purchased until the afternoon of May 6 – several hours after she left Lanier's home.
"Her response was, 'So what? I lied,'" Whitefield recalled.
"She asked what the charges would be. … I said probably criminal attempted homicide … she said we couldn't prove intent."
Thompson called as her sole witness Hope Walker, a longtime friend of Chrisman's who said the two had been "together" for five years. She said while she lived with Chrisman near Lanier's home, the two were there "every day" to use his telephone.
"He bootlegged," Walker said. " … He sold alcohol. … He did have a lot of company."
General Sessions Judge Robert Hamilton said the case merited binding over to the grand jury. The grand jury is expected to hear the case at 1 p.m. Sept. 21.
"We have (Kelly Chrisman) there, we have her knowing (Lanier)," Hamilton said. " … It is difficult in a preliminary hearing to say, 'Yes I made that statement' and then say, 'Well, I'm not sure.'"
Kelly Chrisman remains in the Wilson County Jail. Hamilton declined to lower Chrisman's $100,000 bond.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at email@example.com.