Louisville woman, Jan Michelle Ell, guilty of planning robbery of elderly man, James A. Triplett
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
A Blount County Circuit Court jury Wednesday found a Louisville woman guilty of masterminding a plan to rob and assault an elderly Rockford man.
The jury of five women and five men, plus two alternates, deliberated for close to one hour to convict Jan Michelle Ell, 42, Dresden Way, of one count of especially aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.
She was accused in the beating and robbery of 87-year-old James A. Triplett, of White Pine Lane, in May of last year.
The especially aggravated robbery count, a Class A felony, carries a fine of $50,000 and 15 to 25 years in prison, while the conspiracy count, a Class B felony, carries a $25,000 fine and eight to 12 years imprisonment.
Circuit Court Judge Tammy Harrington scheduled a sentencing hearing for July 3.
Ell served as the lookout while her daughter, 22-year-old Tiffany Shea Dalton, and 18-year-old Chestin Scott Johnstone, the boyfriend of Ell’s younger daughter, committed the crime, according to prosecutors.
Dalton and Johnstone are scheduled to be tried at a later date.
On May 9, 2012, Triplett was sawing wood at a shop at a residence on Williams Mill Road in Alcoa when Johnstone, who was a juvenile at the time, allegedly hit him in the back of the head with what was described as a three-foot green pole.
Triplett fell to the ground, and Johnstone hit him several more times, according to a Blount County Sheriff’s Office report. Johnstone then grabbed Triplett’s wallet and ran behind the house.
A woman who lived nearby drove by the residence and heard Triplett yell for help and called 911. Triplett was taken via Rural/Metro to Blount Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for a broken arm and bruising on the back of his head.
Johnstone was found the next day on East Lamar Alexander Parkway and was arrested. Later that evening, a Sheriff’s Office detective interviewed Dalton, who confessed to her involvement after being read her Miranda rights, and arrested her.
Saw Ell’s car
On Wednesday, Sheriff’s Office Detective Doug Davis, the lead investigator on the case, testified that he visited the crime scene and later contacted Lester Caughron, a friend of Triplett’s. Caughron had testified Tuesday that he saw a PT Cruiser that belonged to Ell at the scene. This information led authorities to Ell.
Blount County Assistant District Attorney Kenlyn Foster then showed the video interview Davis had with Ell on May 15, 2012, when she was charged for her role in the crime.
When Davis mentioned that Triplett had been assaulted, Ell asked if he was OK. As she was confronted about her involvement, she claimed she was at a rehabilitation session. However, she was told that her PT Cruiser was seen parked near Triplett’s shop.
“No one was supposed to get hurt,” Ell said, still not admitting her involvement. “Chestin’s face was red, and he was running. He had some blood on him and I asked him why he was bleeding, and he said I don’t know. If he had hit ‘Papaw’ over the head, I didn’t know what to do.”
Ell said during the interview that she was going to go back to check on Triplett, but there was already another woman tending to him that was driving a brown van.
“I didn’t have anything to do with this,” Ell said at the time.
“Yes you did,” Davis said, perceiving that he had caught Ell in a lie. “You had a plan. You had that plan to go to rehab? That was bull (expletive). I knew you were planning to tell that story.”
During closing arguments, Foster reiterated that Ell had a plan and even gave out roles.
Public Defender Mack Garner, Ell’s attorney, said that people shouldn’t believe everything they hear when it comes to family members.
“If someone tells me my wife broke into some stores, I’m not going to believe them,” Garner said. “There wasn’t anything worked out ahead of time. Chestin attacked the man, and Tiffany Dalton didn’t know it was going to happen.”
“Dalton admitted she lied, and she called Detective Davis to tell the truth,” Foster said in rebuttal. (Ell) wasn’t talked into it. She planned it.”
Triplett worked in a shop at a residence on Williams Mill Road, and Ell often borrowed money from him and delivered wood.
Prosecutors said Ell knew that Triplett always carried two wallets, one containing his cards and the other with $400 to $800 cash. It turned out that Johnstone grabbed the wrong wallet with the cards inside instead of the cash during the robbery.
Triplett testified Tuesday that he sometimes bought wood from Ell. He said Ell promised to deliver some wood to him after he paid for it, but he never received it. The day of the incident, Triplett said Ell brought in one load of wood, and when a second one was delivered later, the assault occurred.
Dalton took the stand and testified against her mother, telling jurors that her mother talked often about robbing Triplett, telling family and friends she wanted to rob him and that she gave her and Johnstone roles.
She admitted she lied to Detective Davis at first, blaming her younger sister who had no involvement. She called Davis the next day and admitted her role because she “wanted justice for “Papaw.”
April Monett, Ell’s biological daughter who was raised by her grandmother, and her husband, David, testified that Ell asked them on several occasions to participate in the robbery of Triplett, but they declined.