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A Hardin County jury deliberated for little more than an hour Friday before returning a guilty verdict in the case against an Elizabethtown man accused of stabbing a man whom he called his “brother” last April at a birthday party.
Moments after hearing Judge Kelly Mark Easton read the verdict, Raymond Kendall Wilson, 52, sat slumped in his seat between his attorneys from the Department of Public Advocacy.
Wilson’s family, who filled two benches in the gallery directly behind him, quietly sobbed and embraced.
Wilson was indicted on charges of attempted murder, first-degree assault and tampering with physical evidence. However, Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young said the attempted murder and assault charges constituted the same act and the attempted murder charge was dismissed.
On the remaining two charges, the jury reached a unanimous decision, recommending a 15-year sentence for first-degree assault and two years for tampering with physical evidence. The jury recommends the two sentences to run consecutively.
A formal sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 9 in Hardin Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton’s courtroom.
The commonwealth rested its case at 9:30 a.m. Friday and the defense about 90 minutes later after calling two witnesses, Wilson and his brother, Steven Hart.
In his testimony, Wilson told jurors Michael York struck him at least two or three times without provocation. The first hit, he said, knocked him to the ground.
When Wilson stood up, he said he pulled out his knife. He saw his brother lying on the ground and the stabbing victim, Gerald Wayne Tharpe, standing over him.
During the events on April 8, 2012, Wilson said his father’s murder replayed in his mind. According to the defendant, two men bludgeoned his father with a sledgehammer when Wilson was about four or five.
“It was running through my mind bad,” he said.
Wilson recalled being hit on the back of the head moments before the stabbing occurred. He said he didn’t realize it was Tharpe he stabbed until he stepped back and regained focus.
His brother grabbed a baseball bat and York a pool stick, but before the fight escalated further, Wilson said he told Hart they needed to leave.
The two headed to Louisville and considered going to a strip club. Wilson said as they were driving on U.S. 61 toward Boston, he threw the knife out a window.
“I just didn’t need it,” he said when asked to explain his actions. “I didn’t want it no more. I’d hurt my best friend.”
In his statements to Hardin County Sheriff’s Office officials, Wilson referred to the stabbing as a “freak accident.”
When Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Teresa Logsdon asked Wilson if he considered the stabbing an “accident” or “mistake,” he said, “It wasn’t a mistake. No, ma’am. I’m sorry it happened to Mr. Tharpe.”
He then added he stabbed “whoever was standing there” and did not realize it was Tharpe.
“It was kind of an accident because I would never do that to Wayne,” Wilson said.
The incident left Tharpe with two scars on his abdomen — one from a hunting knife and another from surgical instruments.
The 55-year-old said he has undergone three surgeries because of the stabbing and may require a fourth.
In his testimony during the sentencing phase of the trial, Tharpe said he is in constant pain. Nearly a year after the incident, he continues to experience trouble bending over to put on his shoes and wearing a belt and blue jeans are uncomfortable.
Asked if he considered Wilson a brother, Tharpe said the defendant “left me there to die.”
Knocking on the back of the bench in front of him, Tharpe shifted in his seat and said, “But at least I’m living.”
Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.