Trial begins for Louisville woman in elderly man’s robbery
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
The trial began in Blount County Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon for a Louisville woman charged with masterminding a plan to rob and assault an elderly Rockford man.
Jan Michelle Ell, 42, Dresden Way, was charged with especially aggravated robbery along with her daughter, 22-year-old Tiffany Shea Dalton, and 18-year-old Chestin Scott Johnstone, the boyfriend of Ell’s younger daughter.
On May 9, 2012, 87-year-old James A. Triplett, White Pine Lane, 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.
Blount County Assistant District Attorney Kenlyn Foster and Ell’s attorney, Blount County Public Defender Mack Garner, gave opening statements to the jury in front of Judge Tammy Harrington.
Foster said that Triplett, also known as “Papaw,” worked in the shop on Williams Mill Road, and Ell often borrowed money from him and delivered wood.
She said that 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.
“The proof will show that the defendant had a plan,” Foster said. “She has asked others in the past to help rob Mr. Triplett. She and others carried out that plan.”
Garner said that he felt certain that Ell did not take anything. “This crime was not premeditated, and she did not help plan it,” he said.
Several witnesses testified Tuesday, including Triplett himself, having to be escorted by court officers to the witness stand because he uses a walker and is hard of hearing.
Triplett testified 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.
“She did not come back the second time that I know of,” Triplett said. “I was cutting a 2x4 and I had my back to the road, and that’s when I was struck. I was hit four to five times, but I didn’t lose consciousness.”
Dalton took the witness stand and testified against her mother, telling jurors that her mother acted like she was using the phone before the assault took place.
“I just watched as he was hit, and I started to run and Chestin followed me to the car,” Dalton said. “I said there wasn’t any money, and that he grabbed the wrong wallet. I think (Ell) wasn’t turning around to see if (Triplett) was OK.”
Dalton testified that her mother talked often about robbing Triplett.
‘Gave us roles’
“She told family and friends she wanted to rob him,” she said. “She gave us roles, and Chestin could distract him and I can grab his wallet.”
When Foster asked Dalton why she didn’t call the police, she replied, “It freaked me out. I was scared. I told Detective (Doug) Davis I didn’t have anything to do with it, and it was my sister. I talked to Detective Davis again and told the truth, and I was arrested that day. I just felt it was the right thing to do.”
Lastly, 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.
“We told her no every time,” April Monett said, adding that she would get her sister’s boyfriend (Johnstone) to do it by threatening them. “She didn’t want to do it herself.”
Dalton and Johnstone are scheduled to have their own trials at a later date, according to the District Attorney’s office. Ell’s trial continues at 9 a.m. today.