Bowling Green reckless homicide trial begins

Published: Sep. 20, 2016 at 10:49 AM CDT
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Opening statements from both the defense and prosecution began what's expected to be a short but emotional trial in Warren County.

Kaylee Whitehall is charged with stabbing her boyfriend Kuston Johnson in September 2015 inside his home on Lost River Lane.

During a dismissal hearing in May 2016, witnesses discussed a physical fight that broke out between the two.

Opening statements Tuesday afternoon centered around the night that Johnson was killed. No one is disputing that Whitehall stabbed Johnson. The question the jury is going to have to answer was whether the stabbing was in self defense, or a malicious act.

The prosecution, led by assistant commonwealth attorney Kim Geoghegan, painted a picture of the evening of the fight.

According to the prosecution, Kuston Johnson and girlfriend Kaylee Whitehall had been dating for more than 3 years and we're living in a house together on Lost River Lane in Bowling Green.

They describe a fight that continued for an extended period of time. After a physical altercation that saw Johnson put Whitehall in a headlock the two split up. Whitehall ended up in the garage of the home with Brittany Jones. Johnson stayed in the house with friend Dennis Melbourne.

Melbourne said the couple was having trouble in their relationship. He testified that Johnson told him so as the two smoke cigarette's outside Johnson's home. A conversation that took place before any fighting.

“What’s going on? I don’t know if I can do this. Do what? Me and Kaylee. Why you talking to me about. If you’re not that happy in a relationship just end it.”

After Whitehall and Johnson came back together in the house, glasses were thrown, one hitting Johnson and cutting his eye.

The two then split up again. Whitehall told Brittany Jones she planned on leaving Johnson and was going to take her TV from their bedroom. Johnson first helped, but then later changed his mind saying the TV needed to stay. At that point the prosecution says Brittany Jones left the room and Johnson and Whitehall began fighting again.

The prosecution says Dennis Melbourne walked into the bedroom just in time to see the two make contact with Whitehall stabbing Johnson.

Defense attorney, Dennie Hardin didn't argue many of the details of the fight between Whitehall and Johnson. His argument centered around who was the aggressor in the fight. He argued that Whitehall was in fear for her life when she used the steak knife to stab Johnson one time.

"What she saw that night, did she have a reason to be afraid?" asked Hardin to witness Dennis Melbourne.

"I mean, I can't speak for Kaylee, but if you're asking me probably so. At the end of the day when they started arguing it wasn't violent," replied Melbourne.

First responders spent much of the first afternoon testifying. The 911 call from the night of the stabbing was played for the court. Melbourne made the call and told the dispatcher Johnson was inside his bathroom not breathing. Shortly after that the dispatcher instructs Melbourne on CPR but the audio is interrupted by a hysterical female voice crying out multiple times.

A BGPD officer who responded to the scene said he was asked to remove Whitehall from the scene by EMS.

Once out of the bathroom where EMTs were working, Whitehall told BGPD officer Blake Adams that she and Johnson had gotten into a fight and she stabbed him. She told a member of The Medical Center's EMS team the same thing.

"She stated that her and Mr. Johnson had been arguing most of the night she said that she had... that she did stab him with a knife and she made a stabbing motion with her arm," said Jack Dempsey.

Dempsey also testified Tuesday that Johnson had no pulse when they first arrived on the scene. He had been stabbed through the heart with the steak knife.

Whitehall is facing a reckless homicide charge. The charge is not as severe as a murder charge. She's facing a maximum of five years in prison.

The trial is set to continue at 9:00 AM Wednesday and continue into Thursday. The proceedings will be live-streamed on as they happen.