Jean Shepard’s Husband Killed Man in Self-Defense, Authorities Say
79-year-old Benny Birchfield shot and killed 21-year-old Travis Sanders in the early morning hours on Saturday (Dec. 17), and according to Nashville's Tennessean newspaper, police have concluded that he acted justifiably in self-defense.
Hendersonville Police Department Det. Sgt. Jim Vaughn tells the Tennessean that Birchfield has met with the Sumner County District Attorney's Office and that no charges will be filed in the shooting.
Police responded to a call about a stabbing at Birchfield's home in a Nashville suburb around 3AM Saturday morning and found him outside, suffering from stab wounds. Upon entering the home they found the body of Sanders, who was dead at the scene from five gunshot wounds from a .38 caliber handgun. They also found Birchfield's grandaughter, 18-year-old Icie Sloan-Hawkins, who was suffering from stab wounds consistent with self-defense. She was transported to a hospital and died in transit.
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According to the report, Hawkins had been living with her grandparents prior to Shepard's death in September to help out, and decided to stay and assist her grandfather afterward. She had been dating Sanders, but they broke up after he reportedly stole money from her.
Birchfield heard a disturbance coming from his basement, where Hawkins was staying, and went to investigate on Saturday morning, police say. He was confronted by Sanders, who was involved in an altercation with his granddaughter. He went upstairs and returned with his gun, then shot Sanders. He suffered large cuts along his neck and head and underwent surgery, and did not find out that his granddaughter had died until after he recovered. Authorities found a knife with a 10-inch blade at the crime scene.
Det. Sgt. Vaughn read a handwritten note from Birchfield at a press conference on Tuesday (Dec. 20) that said, "I would like to thank the Hendersonville police and fire departments for their quick response and professionalism during this tragic time. I also want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers, and for those who have asked, I am okay and my wounds are slowly healing."
Birchfield’s neighbors have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with his recovery. For more details or to contribute to his expenses, visit the GoFundMe page.
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