DA’s office concludes two significant cases

The district attorney’s office has recently concluded two criminal cases with significant convictions. One was child abuse case involving a mother and her 7-year-old son, and another was home invasion case in which two men broke into a Hayden home, robbing and severely beating the occupant.

In the child abuse case, Trudy Warden was charged with and convicted of first degree sexual abuse involving her 7-yearold son. The case, dating originally from 2007, was tried in circuit court here on July 15, 2010, with sentencing on October 14. She was sentenced to serve nine years in state prison. Defense attorney Steven Goldstein has requested probation for his client in connection with the sentence.

“The significance of this case is that it’s the first time a mother has been prosecuted in Blount County for sexually abusing her own child,” said District Attorney Tommy Rountree. “I think peo- ple need to be aware of the outcome of this case and the signal it sends.” He said experience has shown that sexual abuse, like domestic violence, tends to be self-perpetuating from one generation to the next. He deplored that victims often become abusers themselves later in life and that is a major reason for prosecuting offenders – to try to put an end to the cycle.

Rountree said Warden will remain in the Blount County jail pending the outcome of the probation appeal.

The home-invasion case involves two half-brothers Warren James Gunn III and John Timothy Price who broke into the residence of Nicolas Smith on Armstrong Loop Road in Hayden late on the night of May 7, 2009. Testimony from a female accomplice who knew Smith and drove them to the residence indicated they had gone there in an attempt to sell drugs that Smith had been asked but failed to agree to buy in an earlier telephone conversation.

After breaking in, the two men attacked Smith and pistol-whipped him. Smith and a visiting friend Alexander Lutton managed to escape from the house, and Price and Gunn fled after stealing a laptop computer and $200 to $300 in cash.

They fled in the waiting car driven by the woman accomplice, but she wrecked the car a short distance away. The three continued fleeing through the woods on foot, pausing only long enough to bury the gun and stolen property near the base of a tree near a house with a pool in the back yard, according to the woman’s testimony. The contraband was never found.

They spent the rest of the night wandering through the woods. They found their way out to Ala 160 during the morning rush hour and were arrested by sheriff’s deputies who had been notified the fugitives were in the area.

On Sept. 16, 2010, both Price and Gunn were convicted on two counts each of first-degree robbery in Blount County Circuit Court. Because of prior offenses, Gunn is subject to a sentence of life without parole, while Price faces a sentence of 20 to 99 years. Sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 25.

The woman accomplice cooperated with prosecutors in providing evidence and was convicted on two counts of second degree robbery. She was sentenced to 10 years in the Blount County Community Corrections program on each count with the sentences running concurrently. Her name is withheld for reasons relating to her security.

“Both of these men are dangerous guys,” said prosecutor Larry Waites. “Both were insolent in court before the judge, and Price was even required to wear a taser belt during the trial. There were additional deputies in the courtroom during the trial to provide security, and the men were charged with destruction of property while they were in jail. I think they were even separated and confined in two different jails at one point, so these are really dangerous offenders. They’re considered a threat to witnesses that testified against them and others, so I’d really like to get sentencing handled before leaving this job in mid-January, and I’m doing everything I can to do that,” he said.

Both Price and Gunn remain in custody at the Blount County jail pending the sentencing hearing.