published Friday, July 5th, 2013

Whitfield County man claims self-defense in slaying


This story is featured in today's TimesFreePress newscast.

On April 9, police found Johnathan Durden standing in his Dalton, Ga., driveway with a bloody knife in his hand.

A Dodge Ram pickup was parked in the driveway with Durden’s girlfriend, Alexa Blubaugh, sitting in the front seat shirtless. Next to her, Ricky Grice Jr. was slumped over.

“I was trying to protect myself. He tried to shoot me,” Durden, 22, told the officer, who pointed his service weapon at Durden and ordered him to drop the knife.

This week Durden was indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges in the death of Grice, 28. Durden’s attorney, Jerry Moncus, said he will be able to prove that Durden was protecting himself.

“We feel like if there was ever a self-defense case, this is a self-defense case,” he said.

Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bert Poston was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The incident report from Durden’s arrest shows an officer looked into the truck but didn’t see a gun. Blubaugh told the officer she thought there might be one behind the seat or in the back of the truck.

Moncus said Blubaugh and Durden were dating and Grice, of LaFayette, Ga., was coming to pick Blubaugh up about 2:30 a.m. He said Durden was near the driver’s window when Blubaugh went to reach for Grice’s rifle, and Durden reacted and stabbed the man.

Moncus said the police were told Grice was picking up Blubaugh and her dog to take them to a veterinarian.

He filed a motion Wednesday to quash the indictment, citing a technical error.

Moncus alleges in his motion that the grand jury that serves from July to December doesn’t start its term until the second week of July, but it returned a true bill against Durden on July 1.

Because of that, Moncus claims grand jurors lacked jurisdiction to hear the evidence and the indictment is void.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@times or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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