published Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Attorneys describe events before slashing

Lonnie Savage waits in the courtroom as members of the jury are selected for his trial in Chattanooga. Savage was on trial for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault.
Lonnie Savage waits in the courtroom as members of the jury are selected for his trial in Chattanooga. Savage was on trial for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault.
Photo by Allison Carter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Either Lonnie Savage planned to attack his boss or years of depression and months of workplace friction caused him to “snap” as he exploded in a rage, slashing him with a box cutter, according to attorneys in the case.

Attorneys on either side of the attempted murder case against the 62-year-old Savage explained their cases to the jury Thursday morning.

Assistant District Attorney Bret Alexander mimicked the July 10, 2009, assault as he slashed his right hand in the air before the jury during his opening statements in the Hamilton County Criminal Court case.

The trial resumes today. Attorneys told Judge Barry Steelman they expect it to last until Wednesday.

Alexander described a brief argument between Savage and his boss, Tommy Sims, at ADM Southern Cellulose Products Co. before the assault. Sims had told Savage to do a job that he had done the previous day and didn’t want to do again.

“Mr. Savage was frustrated, he was frustrated all about that all day,” Alexander recounted. “[Savage] said he wasn’t going to do that job tomorrow.”

To convince jurors that Savage planned to attack Sims, Alexander and Assistant District Attorney David Schmidt are using the defendant’s frame of mind, a history of workplace disputes and threats against a co-worker that included following the man home after a workplace argument.

But Savage’s defense attorney, Lloyd Levitt, told the jury that some of the same history would show that his client was sliding deeper into depression and paranoia and simply lashed out when confronted by Sims that day.

Levitt traced Savage’s three-decade-long heroin and cocaine addiction, which began after he returned from service in the Vietnam War. When he quit using drugs in 2004, he began taking medication for depression.

In the weeks leading up to the attack, Levitt said, Savage had slept less, not eaten, quit taking his medication and had withdrawn from his co-workers.

“What happened here is Lonnie snapped,” Levitt said. “He was already in an unstable condition. Everything just came together that day.”

As each of the attorneys explained their cases, Savage sat calmly in his chair, at times the fingers of each hand interlaced loosely in prayer fashion beneath his chin.

Savage faces a 15- to 25-year prison sentence if convicted of the most severe charge of attempted pre-meditated first-degree murder. He also is charged with aggravated assault.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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