Trial continues for woman accused of shooting homeless man in 2017

Katie Quackenbush trial
Posted at 3:00 AM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 13:40:44-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The trial for a woman accused of shooting a man experiencing homelessness is underway.

Authorities charged Katie Quackenbush in 2017 with attempted felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. She pleaded not guilty.

Police said the incident revolved around Quackenbush and Gerald Melton, who was experiencing homelessness and sleeping on the sidewalk at 3 a.m. at the corner of 19th Avenue S. and Chet Atkins Place. He was reportedly disturbed by exhaust fumes and loud music coming from a Porsche SUV, police said.

Melton said he asked the driver, Quackenbush, to move the vehicle. Police say the two began yelling at each other, and Quackenbush eventually got out of the car and shot Melton twice before running up the street with another woman. In a statement after the incident, Quackenbush's father said she was acting in self-defense.

Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton presides. Peter Strianse is defending Quackenbush.

During Tuesday's proceedings, the jury heard not only from the man Quackenbush shot, but also from a former friend who testified against her.

The prosecution painted a picture of Quackenbush as a woman just looking to shoot someone — in this case, a homeless man.

Quackenbush appeared in court sporting a much darker hair color than she bore in her blonde mugshot. She listened as the first witness for the prosecution was a former friend — Samantha Hill — who testified about Quackenbush's reaction after the shooting.

"What was her demeanor when she talked about possibly shooting somebody?" asked the prosecutor.

"She had an attitude about it. That it happened... and an adrenaline rush," said Hill.

Hill was in the car when police say Quakenbush shot Gerald Melton, who had been sleeping on the sidewalk. In recorded testimony, Melton said he approached the two women to complain about fumes from the car.

"Their exhaust was bothering me. I was trying to be polite for them to park or move on," said Melton. "The driver just turned up the stereo and laughed and ignored me."

This led to an argument with Quackenbush.

"She asked me if I wanted to die tonight," Melton said. Then he said he backed off.

Hill testified she never felt unsafe.

"Can you tell the jury whether or not you felt like your life was in danger that night?" she was asked, to which she answered, "No."

"Was Katie's?" she was asked further. Again, Hill answered, "No."

As Melton walked away, police say Quakenbush got out of the car and shot him twice.

"After you heard the gunshots, what happened?" asked the prosecution.

"She got back in the car and we left," said Hill.

"Did she say anything?" prosecution asked.

"She made reference to Thelma and Louise," Hill said. Thelma and Louise is a popular 1991 movie about two women on a crime spree.

Hill said she didn't realize Melton had been shot, and that once Quackenbush got back in the car she then drove them to Taco Bell like nothing happened.

The prosecution is expected to rest by Wednesday.

Quackenbush took the stand to testify as well, to explain to the jury why she felt the need to use potentially deadly force.

On the stand, Quackenbush said Hill, who'd been with her all night, was too drunk to return to her own car. She said they'd been sitting in hers while they waited for her to sober up.

According to Quackenbush, Melton accosted them by slamming his hands against the car and yelling at them and other women on the street before he seemed to have left.

Quackenbush said he unexpectedly reappeared later, and then she did shoot her gun twice. However, she testified that she did not believe she had actually hit Melton with either of her shots.

"Did you intend to kill Gerald Melton?" her attorney asked her on the stand.

"Never, never, never," Quackenbush said.

Watch Katie Quackenbush's testimony in the video below:
Note — this video may contain some disturbing language.

Katie Quackenbush direct examination

Because Quackenbush testified to her own character and painted herself as a peaceful person, prosecutors argued that the door was opened for cross-examination about her history of violent encounters and interactions.

Before the court session ended for the day just after 5 p.m., the prosecution did cross-examine Quackenbush, and her attorneys were given an opportunity for a brief re-cross.