On September 25, country music lost a true legend when Jean Shepard passed away. Shepard’s career spanned over the course of six decades, and was filled with hit songs such as “A Dear John Letter.” Due to her influence in country music, she was officially invited to join the Grand Ole Opry as a member. When she died, Shepard was the longest-serving female Opry member.
Shepard was survived by her husband Benny Birchfield and her sons Don Robin Hawkins, Harold Franklin Hawkins II and Corey Birchfield. But Shepard’s death wasn’t the only loss the family has experienced this year, as tragedy struck once again.
The Tennessean reports that Hendersonville police arrived at the home that Birchfield shared with his 18-year-old granddaughter, Icie Sloan-Hawkins, around 3 AM on Saturday (December 17). Once they arrived, they discovered Birchfield in the front yard with large cuts on his neck and head. Upon entering the house, police found the body of Hawkins’ 21-year-old ex-boyfriend, Travis Sanders. He had been shot a total of five times, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Like her grandfather, Sloan-Hawkins had suffered several stab wounds, only hers were more severe. She was alive when officers arrived on the scene, but later died while en route to the hospital.
The whole scene left officers puzzled, wondering what led to the deaths of Sloan-Hawkins and Sanders. But finally, the pieces of the puzzle started to come together, painting a picture of what may have unfolded that night.
Det. Sgt. Jim Vaughn. spoke to reporters about the incident, saying, “[Birchfield] thought he heard [Sloan-Hawkins], but he didn’t know for sure what she was saying. He went down to investigate and… that is when he was confronted by Mr. Sanders.”
Family members claimed in a prior interview with The Tennessean that Birchfield shot Sanders in order to protect his granddaughter. It seems that police have now reached the same conclusion, as they have announced that no charges will be brought against Birchfield for Sanders’ death.
Now, the one thing the police still need to determine is what motivated Sanders to attack Sloan-Hawkins. The couple had been friends for a few years, according to Sloan-Hawkins’ mother, Velvet. They started dating in early 2016, but broke up after Sanders allegedly stole money from Sloan-Hawkins.
“This is still an active and ongoing investigation,” Vaughn said. “It’s going to take some time. In order to find a motive we’re going to have to interview a lot of friends and family.”
As for Birchfield, he was released from the hospital on Monday (December 19) following surgery on his wounds. He wrote a note for Vaughn to read for reporters, thanking everyone for the kindess they’ve shown to his family.
“I would like to thank the Hendersonville police and fire departments for their quick response and professionalism during this tragic time,” Birchfield wrote. “I also want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers, and for those who have asked, I am okay and my wounds are slowly healing.“
Birchfield’s neighbor set up a GoFundMe fund to help assist him with the cost of medical bills and other expenses. If you’d like to make a donation to the fund, you can do so here. We’ll certainly be keeping Birchfield and his family in our prayers.