Jean Shepard’s Widower Allegedly Killed Granddaughter’s Ex to Protect Her
During a Saturday morning (Dec. 17) incident that resulted in the deaths of two people and injuries to Benny Birchfield, the widower of country artist Jean Shepard, sources say that Birchfield shot one of the deceased to try to protect his granddaughter, who later died due to her injuries.
Around 3AM on Saturday morning, authorities in Hendersonville, Tenn., received a phone call about an incident that had taken place at Birchfield's home. When police arrived at the scene, they found the 79-year-old injured from a stabbing and wandering in the yard; inside, they discovered the deceased body of Travis Sanders, 21, who had been shot, as well as Birchfield’s granddaughter, Icie Sloan-Hawkins, 18, who was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead due to stab wounds.
Sloan-Hawkins' mother, Velvet Sloan, tells the Tennessean that her daughter had been living with her grandparents to help Shepard, who had Parkinson's disease; after Shepard died in late September, she stayed to help Birchfield. Sloan-Hawkins and Sanders, who had been friends for a few years, began dating earlier in 2016, but they broke up, according to Sloan, after Sanders stole money from Sloan-Hawkins and broke her phone. Birchfield heard the two arguing in Sloan-Hawkins' room early Sunday morning, Sloan says, and after Sanders attacked him with a knife, Birchfield got his gun and shot Sanders.
Birchfield was released from the hospital on Monday (Dec. 19), following surgery, police reported, though they have not yet confirmed the version of events that Sloan shared with the Tennessean; they also have not said if charges will be filed.
"We are collecting more information as we go. We pretty much have the who, what, when and where, but we don't have the why," Detective Sgt. Jim Vaughn explains. "If they were real quiet, secretive people, we may never know [the motive], but if they talked to someone about what was going on, we might."
Shepard was 82 when she died in September. She and Birchfield — a musician himself, who worked with the Osborne Brothers and Roy Orbison — had been married since 1968. Birchfield's neighbors have set up a GoFundMe to help him during this time.
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