Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

August 6, 2013

Murder trial starts

Valdosta woman faces charges in friend’s death

VALDOSTA — It’s been almost 10 months since the Oct. 15, 2012, stabbing death of Yvonne Smith at her residence on Old Statenville Road; on Monday, the trial began of Belinda Grimmage, who is charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony, in connection with that death.

Assistant Southern District Attorney Tracy Chapman and William Folsom, Grimmage’s defense attorney, offered two different views on the case.

In her opening statement to the jury, Chapman drew the jury’s attention to what she called “the irony about this case,” the fact that prior to the incident, Smith and Grimmage had been close friends “who saw each other almost daily.”

But in the days leading up to the stabbing, a disagreement bubbled to the point where, by the night of Oct. 15, the two women fought in Smith’s backyard.

After neighbors stopped the fight, Chapman continued, Grimmage went to her nearby home, returned 10-15 minutes later with a steak knife, and proceeded to stab Smith twice in the back.

In her statements to Valdosta police later that night, Grimmage changed her story, according to the prosecution. At first, she told police she decided to go back to Smith’s with a knife after seeing that Smith had cut her with a beer bottle during the fight. Later, she said she carried a steak knife in her pocket whenever she went out at night and pulled it out during the fight, stabbing Smith twice.

In his opening defense statements, Folsom agreed with Chapman on several points, namely that Grimmage and Smith had been friends before the fight on Oct. 15 and that they had been having a disagreement leading up to that night. Folsom said the disagreement was about Smith’s brother, who received a small monthly check due to his having had a stroke earlier. Grimmage felt that money should have gone to the brother’s use instead of being used by Smith.

In the fight, Smith pulled a beer bottle out of a trash can and hit Grimmage over the head with it, which led Grimmage to pull out the steak knife she carried with her when she went out at night.

In his conclusion, Folsom drew attention to how Grimmage cooperated with police and noted she was taken to South Georgia Medical Center on the night of Oct. 15 to be stitched up before being booked in the Lowndes County Jail. Folsom also drew attention to the charges brought against Grimmage, arguing that she couldn’t be found guilt of a felony murder unless she was found guilty of committing a felony. In this case, Smith is charged with the felony of aggravated assault but, Folsom argued, aggravated assault generally applies to an aggressor attacking a victim, not to two people who are aggressively “engaged in mortal combat.”

Southern Circuit Judge Richard Cowart, who is presiding over the case, told the jury he expected the case to conclude this afternoon, after which it will be left to the jury to decide.

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