Murder trial delayed

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   In light of some new evidence, the trial for a Valley Forge man who has been charged with murder has been postponed until December. The trial was originally scheduled to begin Wednesday.
   John Vernon Campbell, 40, of 175 Chambers Hollow, was taken into custody by the Carter County Sheriff's Department in July 2003 after a specially called grand jury handed down an indictment against him charging him with first degree murder and felony murder.
   Campbell was charged in connection with the death of Terri Sanders Abbott, whose body was discovered on March 8 by a man from Kingsport and his two sons who had been riding dirt bikes in the area and had pulled off of the roadway to "scout a fishing spot in the stream flowing along Panhandle Road," according to reports. While scouting the stream, one of the man's sons spotted Abbott's body in the stream.
   An autopsy determined that Abbott died of several blunt force traumas to the head.
   According to Assistant District Attorney Ken Baldwin, he and other individuals involved in the case had been reviewing the evidence when they were made aware of a test that could be conducted on one of the pieces of evidence to determine whether there was blood on it.
   "We actually conducted the test on the day before the trial," Baldwin said, adding that the results were significant.
   After the new evidence was presented to the defense and to Judge Lynn Brown, the defense asked Brown for a continuance to allow them to review the new evidence and prepare a defense against it. Brown ruled in favor of the continuance and Campbell's trial has been delayed until December 7.
   "We were disappointed (about the delay) but we think this is significant and we want to use it," Baldwin said.
   The brutality that caused Abbott's death is what prompted the charge of first degree, or premeditated, murder, stated Carter County Sheriff John Henson at the time of Campbell's arrest. "If I beat someone to death, in my mind that's a horrible murder. If I shoot someone it's still a murder, but, if I take the premeditation to keep hitting someone until they are dead, then that's a brutal murder, I think," Henson said.
   Sgt. Audrey Covington, who works with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Sheriff's Department agreed that the murder was a very brutal crime. "This murder and this man is the worst I have ever dealt with in my career," said Covington at the time Campbell was arrested.