DUNLAP, Tenn. — On Thursday, the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Willard Clifton "Bill" Land, the accused took the stand for more than two hours to give an account of the days leading up to the death of 24-year-old Kerry Summer Angel.
Land is charged with first- degree murder in Angel's Oct. 11, 2014, killing at a home on Cagle Mountain, west of Dunlap.
Land, on direct questioning by public defender Jeff Harmon in Sequatchie County Criminal Court, said Angel was attempting to stop him from leaving the mobile home they were visiting, attacked him with a knife of her own, so he grabbed another one from the sink to defend himself.
The 74-year-old testified he and Angel had been arguing over his prescription medications at the home of Bobby Kendall.
After several terse exchanges between Land and Angel, Land testified that Angel was in his path as he was leaving to smoke a cigarette.
"She said, 'You're not going anywhere,'" Land testified. "She took a step and pushed me into the kitchen."
Land said he stumbled, and when he caught himself, he saw Angel holding a knife. He said he feared for his life.
"She came at me. She came at me like this," Land said, standing and holding his hand level with his head. "She was facing me. Her back to the wall.
"I threw my hand up and I did like that," Land said, simulating blocking Angel's blow with his left arm, then responding with an overhand knife blow of his own on Angel.
"The knife went out of her hand and hit the wall. I heard it hit the dog [food] bag," Land testified.
In the moments that followed, Land said he "flipped out" and left Kendall's home, walking outside to tell Kendall to call 911. He then kept walking until he got to his brother's home nearby.
On Wednesday, Sequatchie County Sheriff's investigator Jody Lockhart testified that no weapon was found near Angel's body nor anywhere else in Kendall's mobile home. Lockhart also testified about photos taken of Land's body that appeared to show no injuries from any kind of scuffle.
On cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain, Land testified that he first met Angel when she was 14 or 15 years old and remained friends with her until she reached adulthood.
Land claimed Angel wanted a physical, sexual relationship that he didn't want, though he admitted in testimony that he and Angel had sex previously, but only after she was an adult.
Strain asked Land about activities earlier the day of the fatal stabbing, which he described as a reluctant car trip with Angel and her fiance that included a series of stops to get money that various people owed him.
Land testified that Angel wanted to go to Fall Creek Falls to stay at the inn, but Angel's fiance instead dropped the two off at the home of Kendall.
Land admitted stabbing Angel once, but denied stabbing her twice. Land suggested the second, minor knife wound might have happened as they drew back away from each other. He identified the metal-handled steak knife he used in the stabbing but said he stuck the knife into a drawer, not to hide it but because "I was in shock, I was flipped out."
Strain questioned Land about how Angel could have remained on her feet as Land left Kendall's home when her aorta had been cut, but Land maintained she was "still standing" when he left.
Late Thursday, Harmon called psychological examiner Benjamin Biller to testify about a review of Angel's mental health records that indicated she suffered from a variety of disorders and said she had "thoughts about killing people" and that she "hits men in her life." But there were many other reports that said she didn't have those thoughts on those occasions, according to testimony.
Connie Mitchell, a woman who knew both Land and Angel and had seen them together many times over recent years, testified that their relationship was "weird" and that Angel sometimes flew unexpectedly into a rage.
"I have no idea what happened the night of the incident," Mitchell testified. "The way I look at it, Summer was my friend. Bill was my friend. Both of them are my friends.
"It breaks my heart both ways," she said.
Harmon said he expects to call several more brief witnesses this morning. The case could go to the jury by this afternoon.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.