published Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Murderer gets life sentence in Whitfield County stabbing

A Rocky Face, Ga., man charged in April with stabbing a Walker County man to death was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty of felony murder this week in Whitfield County.

Jonathan Durden, 22, was sentenced to life without possibility of parole plus five years in the stabbing death of 28-year-old Ricky Grice Jr., according to officials at the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office.

Durden was arrested April 9 after authorities found him standing in his own driveway with blood on his hands, holding a bloody knife. Grice was slumped over in a Dodge pickup next to Durden's girlfriend, Alexa Blubaugh.

In April, authorities said Grice had come to Durden's Quinn Drive home to pick up Blubaugh around 2:30 a.m. Sheriff Scott Chitwood said then that Durden and Blubaugh were reportedly arguing.

Sheriff's spokesman Rick Swiney said in April that investigators didn't think Grice knew what was coming. Durden approached the open window of the truck, authorities said. Before Grice could react or stop him, Durden reached for the knife strapped to his side and began stabbing Grice.

Blubaugh witnessed the stabbing and called authorities.

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

Durden claimed the killing was in self-defense. Blubaugh told officers a gun might be behind the seat or in the back of the truck, but the police report stated that the officer looked inside the truck but saw no gun.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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