August 14, 2019
By: Dwayne Page
It took 25 minutes this morning (Wednesday) for a jury panel of 7 men and 5 women to find 31 year old Andrew Billings guilty as charged of attempted first degree murder in a 2017 knife attack on his wife Adriana.
Along with the guilty verdict, the jury assessed a $50,000 fine. Billings will remain behind bars in the Robertson County Jail, where he has been held, without bond pending a sentencing hearing in DeKalb County Criminal Court on September 20 before Judge Gary McKenzie.
As an A felony the range of punishment for this offense is from 15-25 years.
Billings was accused of slitting his wife’s throat with a long kitchen knife before leaving her by the side of Allen Ferry Road in the Ragland Bottom area on April 4, 2017.
The state rested its case Tuesday afternoon after calling seven witnesses to testify for the prosecution. Billings’ attorney Brandon Cox called no defense witnesses and Billings himself chose not to testify. Although Billings did not deny the knife attack, his defense was that he was on meth at the time and that he took out his rage on Adriana thinking she had turned over to authorities a recording of a statement he made implicating himself in a meth case.
Day two of the case began at 8:30 a.m. this morning (Wednesday) with closing arguments by Assistant District Attorneys General Stephanie Johnson and Victor Gernt and defense attorney Brandon Cox.
Cox argued that Billings’ use of meth in the days leading up to the assault made him paranoid and agitated and rendered him incapable of premeditation. Johnson and Gernt countered that Billings’ actions proved that he had planned the attack on Adriana and that his use of meth could not be an excuse for committing such a horrific crime.
Judge McKenzie then read the charge and the jurors retired to the jury room at 9:25 a.m. Twenty five minutes later at 9:50 a.m. the jurors returned with their guilty verdict.
Among those testifying against Billings Tuesday for the state was the victim, Adriana.
“All of a sudden I heard him say you made me do this and then I saw the shadow of his hand and felt something warm and wet (blood) coming down my face,” said Adriana during her testimony.
“I jumped out of the car while it was still moving and started running. I heard the car slam into park and he (Andrew) got out of the car and chased me. He grabbed me from behind and cut my throat from ear to ear. I yelled for him to stop but he kept cutting and cutting. I tried to fight back and I believe it made him drop the weapon he was carrying although I believe he was still cutting me with something else even after I made him drop the knife,” she continued.
“I thought the only way he would stop is if I pretended I was dead so I dropped to my knees and held my breath and then I fell to the ground in the ditch. He grabbed me by my hair and slammed my head into a log. He then got back into the car and took off”, she said.
“I’m not sure how long I laid there but it seemed like forever and then I heard a vehicle approaching. I thought it would go by me but then I heard someone scream stop and two men ran over and saw me laying there. One of them called the cops and the other grabbed a piece of cloth from the vehicle and wrapped it around my neck. I couldn’t get up. All I could do was roll back and forth but I was able to tell them my name and who had done this to me,” Adriana testified.
“I believe I was airlifted but I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the hospital. I had a stroke from severe blood loss, severe tendon damage to my right hand, and lacerations on my neck and a trache. I was in the hospital for two weeks. I have been left with a scar on my neck. My right hand does not close all the way. I can somewhat use my left hand but I don’t have complete control over it and the left side of my face droops,” added Adriana.
She further recalled events leading up to the attack.
“We had stayed at a hotel in Crossville and left that morning on the way to Sparta in my car. I was driving. On the way Andrew wanted to stop off at the home of his ex-girl friend’s mother, Cheryl Roberts in Crossville saying he needed to get a tire iron so he could change a tire,” said Adriana.
It was at the Roberts’ home where prosecutors believe Andrew stole a kitchen knife which he later used to commit the assault on Adriana.
“After we stopped at Roberts’ home I stayed in the car but Andrew went inside and stayed about 30-45 minutes. When he came out he had some peanut butter sandwiches. He then got back in the car and we headed toward Sparta. On the way he wanted me to pull off onto an old road but it was blocked because of some work being done on it. Andrew then decided he wanted to go visit his sister on Bon Air Mountain so we went there. It was there while talking to his sister that he began acting like he was scared of me,” said Adriana.
Although it wasn’t specifically brought out during the trial Tuesday, both Andrew and Adriana were caught with a meth lab during a wreck on Highway 70 east (Sparta Highway) in November 2016 but they fled the scene with their child and were located two days later in Flint, Michigan.
According to Adriana’s testimony Tuesday, Andrew became upset with her over developments he perceived had occurred after that episode.
“Although he didn’t discuss it with me, Andrew told his sister he thought a recording was made in Michigan (and turned over by Adriana to authorities) where I (Adriana) had admitted that everything in the vehicle that we had been charged with was mine but that it would make him seem like a snitch and that he would possibly get hurt because of it,” she said.
According to state prosecutors no such recording existed.
“After we left his sister’s home we stopped by the Highway 70 Market in White County and then went to his mother’s house. He got out and went to a barn where he changed clothes and then came out and knelt down by the back passenger tire. I thought he was going to cut the tire but he didn’t. Andrew then got in the car and we left his mother’s house and headed back toward Sparta,” said Adriana.
Cheryl Roberts testified that she had not been expecting Andrew when he showed up at her home at around 7 a.m. on the morning of the assault. Roberts said she had not seen Andrew for 5 years and that it had been 10 years since he had dated her daughter.
“I let him in and we talked. I asked him how his wife was doing and during the conversation he made a comment about a recording he and Adriana had made over a meth charge that wasn’t supposed to be sent in to anybody (authorities) but she did,” said Roberts.
“I later asked him if he was hungry and I offered him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He went into the kitchen and made the sandwiches himself. He wanted to know if I had a jack and a piece of rope. I said no. He stayed about 15 minutes and left with a couple of sandwiches. I later discovered a butcher knife missing from my set of knives in the kitchen and contacted the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department after I heard there was BOLO (Be on the Lookout) for him following the attack,” Roberts testified.
During her testimony Tuesday, Roberts was shown the knife used in the assault on Adriana and she identified it as the one missing from her set of kitchen knives.
Two days before the attack on April 2, Andrew and Adriana arrived at the home of his mother, Hattie Manning.
“Adriana knocked on the door at around 6 o’clock and woke us up. She wanted in the house because she and Andrew had been fighting. She was afraid because Andrew tried to grab her and she didn’t want to be around him. She came in the house and Andrew was right behind her. He was upset. Andrew said that Adriana had turned in a tape and that he would kill her because of it,” Manning testified.
Ms Manning said she was concerned about Andrew’s sobriety because she knew he had been a meth user and that he normally would not be up that early.
“If he wasn’t at work he usually slept late into the day,” she said.
Manning said over the next six hours while at her home Andrew and Adriana continued to argue. “He was angry. His face was flushed and blotchy and it appeared he had been using (drugs). At one point he asked us to turn the TV off. He said the FBI was watching us through the TV,” said Manning.
“I had seen him on it (meth) before and his behavior was consistent with that. When he would get upset we would usually try to calm him down, get him something to eat, try to change the discussion, and get him to go to sleep,” she said.
Chief Deputy Robert Patrick of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, who was a detective at the time of the incident, testified about what he observed when he was called to the crime scene the morning of the assault on Adriana.
“When I arrived Deputy Joseph Carroll was there rendering aid to her along with two or three other individuals who were also assisting”.
“She was in the grass just a couple of feet from the road. She was fidgeting and moaning. She appeared to be in a lot of pain. I noticed her hands had several lacerations. Her fingers were severely damaged and some of them were sliced straight down the middle. They appeared to be self defense wounds. She had a large laceration across her neck, lips, and above her eye and she was still bleeding,” said Chief Deputy Patrick.
After developing Andrew as a suspect, Patrick said the Sheriff’s Department enlisted the help of the District Attorney General’s Office, TBI, and surrounding county law enforcement agencies through a BOLO (Be on the Lookout).
“About an hour or two later, the White County Sheriff’s Department had him pulled over at a convenience store in Sparta. I went to the White County Hospital where Andrew had been taken. He had a cut to his finger,” said Chief Deputy Patrick.
“His car had been taken to the White County Sheriff’s Department’s impound lot so we obtained a search warrant and recovered from the car a long kitchen knife with reddish brown stains (RBS) or blood and hair on the blade along with personal belongings of both Andrew and Adriana including a pair of man pants saturated in RBS (blood). There was also RBS on the car seats, ceiling, floor, everywhere,” added Patrick.
The jury also got to see a video tape of a TBI interview of Andrew after he was taken into custody that day. In the interview Billings took sole responsibility for the attack on Adriana and became emotional when told she had survived and was at the time in stable condition.
“I want to be clear that you were the one who cut her?” asked the TBI agent
“Yes, no one else had anything to do with it,” answered Andrew.