Retelling The Knoxville Tennessee Murder Of Kenneth Lusby Sr0
On January 3, 1993, Martha Lou Norman Whicker, 51, of Powell, Tennessee, left her Norman Lane home. After a blistering conversation with her boyfriend’s ex-wife, Whicker had a score to settle. This is one of the potential routes that Whicker followed before she arrived and entered the home of her estranged boyfriend, 53-year-old Kenneth Howard Lusby Sr. of Knoxville, Tennessee. Within minutes, she shot him in the head with a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
Whicker and Lusby had met in 1985 and began dating. The eight-year intermittent relationship was far from perfect. In fact, Whicker claimed Lusby was violent toward her and she had threatened to kill him on several occasions.
According to the prosecution, on January 3, 1993, Lusby and his ex-wife, Janice Tarling, were having dinner at his 4504 Ellistown Road home, when the phone rang. Whicker’s phone number appeared on the caller ID and Lusby instructed Tarling to answer the phone and tell Whicker that he did not want to speak with her.
Whicker then drove to Lusby’s home and set off the alarm system. Lusby was not startled by the alert, as he was expecting his son to return home at any time. When she entered the den, she approached Lusby, threatened to “blow his guts away” and embarrass him at his workplace.
Lusby asked Whicker to leave, but she refused. Instead she grabbed Tarling by the neck and head and shoved her forcefully. Whicker retrieved a .380-caliber pistol from her purse, pointed it at Lusby and fired one shot toward Lusby. Tarling called 911 multiple times to report the shooting.
An autopsy revealed that the single gunshot wound to the right eye killed Lusby “instantaneously.”
Whicker remained in the home until officers arrived. It was later determined that Whicker’s son gave her the weapon for protection in July 1990.
Whicker was arrested for the murder of Kenneth Howard Lusby and charged with first-degree murder.
During the trial, Whicker testified that she went to Lusby’s home to talk with him about his relationship with Tarling. She said Lusby had welcomed her into his home and had no intentions of harming him. She went on to say that the pistol fell out of her purse onto the floor during a physical altercation with Tarling. She then grabbed the gun and fired it toward the ceiling, as Lusby rushed toward her. Lusby was struck when the gun discharged.
During her testimony, Whicker said, “It was just words. I could never harm anybody. I could surely never harm Ken.”
After deciding that Whicker fatally shot Lusby in a moment of passion provoked by a quarrel, the jury convicted her of voluntary manslaughter. On January 14, 1994, she was sentenced to four years in the Tennessee prison system. Whicker showed little emotion when Baumgartner handed down his sentence.
Knox County Judge Richard R. Baumgartner addressed Whicker during the sentencing:
“Miss Whicker, it was you that took Mr. Lusby’s life. And I would observe that it was you who carried this weapon. It was you that got into the automobile and drove from your home to [the victim’s] home knowing that you were not welcome in that home on that Sunday night.
You went into that home without permission and as he sat on the couch watching T.V. with Miss Tarling you provoked a fight.
You declined to leave when you were asked to leave and then provoked a confrontation with Miss Tarling, which led to the ultimate act in this case, which was the death of Mr. Lusby.”
In November 1993, Lusby’s sons, Kenneth H. Lusby Jr., Todd Andrew Lusby and Lawrence Kevin Lusby, filed a lawsuit against Whicker’s son, Robert Whicker, alleging he loaded the gun and gave it to his mother.
In 1994, attorneys filed an appeal on Whicker’s behalf, presenting three issues for review by the Court. On February 14, 1995, the appeal was denied, finding the circumstances surrounding the offense justify the imposition of the four-year prison sentence.
Martha Lou Whicker was released from prison on March 19, 1998. Kenneth Lusby Sr. was laid to rest in the Greenwood Cemetery. His son would join him in 2007. As for Martha Lou Whicker, she would go on to remarry and seemingly enjoy a fulfilling life. She still resides at her Norman Lane home in Powell, Tennessee.
Kenneth Lusby will be remembered by his co-workers at Saint Mary’s Hospital. Lusby was also the owner of L&L Plumbing.
Additional details: http://tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/OPINIONS/tcca/PDF/961/WHICKER.pdf