A neighbor in “tent city” told a jury Wednesday about seeing her friend’s blood pouring “like syrup” as she returned to the homeless encampment.
Steven Yearwood, a man spending time in a Gainesville homeless camp, was allegedly assaulted Aug. 4.
David William Keener, 50, is on trial in Hall County Superior Court, charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault in the case.
Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge began her opening statements Wednesday, asking the jury to keep an open mind when entering a community with different rules.
“You live in a tent,” she said. “There are no locking doors, and you must survive as best you can.”
Beverly Simmons, a woman living in the encampment, befriended Yearwood a few weeks before the attack. She described the victim as an “old country boy” standing more than 6 feet tall and weighing more than 200 pounds.
Dan Sammons, Keener’s attorney, noted Keener is a shorter and skinnier man than the victim. Keener claimed in pre-trial motions that he was acting in self-defense.
Simmons left the encampment to get water for cooking; she believed she was out of the encampment for no more than 15 minutes or so.
When she returned, she said she saw blood pouring from Yearwood’s head and Keener standing above him.
“It was really hot outside, and the blood started looking like syrup before it even reached the ground,” Simmons said.
She testified that Keener kicked Yearwood with steel-toed boots.
Keener is also accused of stitching Yearwood’s ear with a sewing needle. His ear was believed to have split into two pieces.
Sammons, speaking to witness Cliff Terrill, also involved in stitching the victim’s ear, said “when you took it upon yourself to consider repairing Mr. Yearwood’s ear, you did that with some degree of humanity to save Mr. Yearwood from being permanently deformed.”
Yearwood traveled to Nashville and was seen by Dr. Wayne Moore at Nashville General Hospital. Moore reported that Yearwood’s face was swollen and had lacerations on his face and right ear.
“I’ve been doing this 30 years. You see patients assaulted all the time, and there are certain cases that stick in your mind and really stick out. This was one of the most brutal cases and even borderline on sadistic to me,” Moore said.
The Department of Corrections transferred inmate Robert Salvador from the Muscogee County Correctional Institution to testify, putting a hold on court until Wednesday morning.
Salvador kept journal entries and testified that he discussed the assaults with Keener.