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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Four years ago: November 2016.
The last presidential election; Sevier County wildfires; a tornado in Athens; the Chattanooga bus crash where six children died; the murder of 16-year-old Central High School student, Emma Walker; the murders of Joel and Lisa Guy.
Most of those headlines took place within a two-week period in 2016.
It’s taken four years to reach the start of the trial for Joel Guy Jr., 28 at the time of the crimes.
For those that knew Joel and Lisa, the crimes their son is accused of, killing his parents and attempting to dissolve their remains in acid, are likely as fresh this week as they were four years ago.
The timeline of events between November 7th 2016, when investigators believe Guy Jr. bought gloves, a spray bottle, and iron pipe from Lowe’s, and November 26th , the probable day, according to investigators when Joel and Lisa Guy were murdered, will be revisited in detail during Guy Jr.’s trial.
The house on Goldenview Lane
In 2007, Joel Guy Sr., 61, and Lisa Guy, 55, bought the house in Hardin Valley on Goldenview Lane.
By 2016, it was on the market to be sold, as they were moving closer to Guy Sr.’s family in Surgoinsville, Tennessee.
Guy Sr. attended the former Lynn View High School in Kingsport and was planning to make the move out of Knoxville within two weeks of his death.
They bought the home a year after their son, Joel Guy Jr., left for college.
He was welcomed at the Goldenview Lane house “without restrictions.” He had a key of his own and an automatic garage door opener, programmed for him by his father. Guy Jr. was a regular visitor at the home, according to court documents.
He testified he “considered it home.” He always attended Thanksgiving and a “smattering” of other holidays throughout the year.
He had his own room upstairs where he kept clothes, furniture he owned since he was a child, collectible items, and books for school.
On Thursday November 24, 2016, Guy Jr. spent Thanksgiving, as he always did, with his parents and family. Also there, his half-sister Michelle, her children, and her boyfriend.
The next day, Nov. 25th, Guy Jr. went with his parents to their new Surgoinsville home to move the family’s boat. When they returned, Guy Jr. would begin parking his car inside the garage on Goldenview Lane.
In what was an otherwise quiet neighborhood, law enforcement and crime scene investigators would take-over in the days following that Thanksgiving holiday in 2016.
When the WATE 6 On Your Side crew arrived to the neighborhood for the first time, Knox County Sheriff’s Office investigators and crime scene analysts in hazmat suits were already going in and out of the Guy family home.
At that time, details weren’t yet known, but neighbors told the WATE 6 On Your Side crew they were worried, many had not seen Joel or Lisa in days.
Where was Lisa Guy?
Lisa did not show up for work after Thanksgiving in 2016. Her coworkers were concerned because it was unlike her to not report to work at Jacobs’ Engineering in Oak Ridge. One of her coworkers called authorities requesting a welfare check.
On November 28th, Officer Steven Ballard, listed as a witness in Guy Jr.’s upcoming trial, went to the home on Goldenview Lane for a welfare check. He rang the doorbell, but didn’t get an answer. He saw two cars in the driveway and a light on in foyer of the home.
The same day, Detective Jeremy McCord, listed as a witness in Guy Jr.’s upcoming trial, received another report that Lisa was missing. The information came from another coworker who was concerned that she was not at work.
Both McCord and Ballard went back to Goldenview Lane, together. They didn’t get an answer at the door and the cars were still parked in the driveway.
They begin an investigation of the house, as recorded by a bodycam, which has been described in court documents as evidence that supports the conclusion that what they found during the first search of the house was “shocking.”
McCord noticed the “smell of decomposing bodies and heat” coming from inside the house. He was alarmed.
McCord described it as “a weird smell, a chemical, cooking” which court documents describe as being “consistent with plenty of bodies that are in various forms of decomposition.”
McCord would later testify describing the scene, he said, “Seeing scenes like this, they are very rare. They are in the one percentile of homicides in the United States.”
It was time for backup and there was now a clear reason to get access inside the house. They went in through the garage.
Court documents describe the investigation leading up to the findings inside the home as, “unusual set of circumstances, to say the least.”
They didn’t wait for a warrant, as officers believed, doing so may jeopardize lives.
Inside the house on Goldenview Lane: A Horrifying Scene
It was hot inside the house.
KCSO officers who entered identified themselves, according to court records, but did not get a response.
Guy Jr. would later testify he left the thermostat on high in the house and space heaters running.
The two-story home was empty on the first floor, no one was found. Det. McCord went upstairs to the 2nd floor when he saw it: severed body parts on the floor.
Investigators would find Lisa’s head in a pot on the stove and other body parts in containers, according to prosecutors’ explanation of what happened.
Investigators found Guy Sr.’s hands on the floor of a room inside the house. Body parts were also found in blue plastic bins, the same bins, investigators would later learn, a family member saw inside Guy Jr.’s car on Thanksgiving.
McCord called for backup knowing that there was at least one person dead inside the home.
When crime scene technicians arrived at the Goldenview Lane house hours after the first welfare check, they found more evidence: bottles of muriatic acid, liquid fire, sewer cleaner, isopropyl alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide.
That evidence led investigators to a Knox County Walmart where they got surveillance video of Guy Jr. buying some of those items found inside the house.
McCord would later testify about the theory of what investigators believed happened, he said, “Joel Guy Jr. placed portions of the remains in an acid-based solution in an attempt to destroy evidence.”
They quickly learned Guy Jr. Had been staying with his parents for the Thanksgiving holiday, after speaking with his family.
His belongings, laid out in plain sight.
He became the suspect in the killings of his parents: Joel and Lisa.
Searching for the son, suspect
Officers knew that Joel and Lisa Guy lived at the house on Goldenview Lane. They knew Joel Guy Jr. was staying with them for the Thanksgiving holiday.
What they did not know immediately: where was Guy Jr.?
Finding him, they determined, would be a critical piece of learning what happened between Thanksgiving on Thursday and Monday, when officers initiated a welfare check.
According to the state’s explanation of the investigation process, “When two people are found murdered in their own home, items that belong to a missing third party inside that home would more probably than not identify who else was in the home and would be evidence of them crime.”
One of the pieces of evidence that became a focus for investigators: a laptop that belonged to Guy Jr.
“Someone was probably using the computer when the bodies were dissolving,” court documents explain.
To create a timeline of events that led to the murders, investigators began to track Guy Jr.’s movements through his purchases. In both Knoxville and Baton Rogue, Louisiana where he was living. They believed he was purchasing items that would then be used to carry out the murders and dissolve human remains.
In Guy Jr.’s own notebook, investigators found entries that referenced the purchased products needed to carry out the murders.
Guy Jr.’s half-sister, Michelle, told investigators she saw a “large blue plastic container” in her half-brother’s car on Thanksgiving.
At the same time as investigators were searching the home and piecing together a story, based on evidence of what they believed happened, Guy Jr. went back to Louisiana seeking treatment for injuries.
He went to Louisiana State University’s Student Health Center for cuts on his hands. He told doctors he “tumbled down 3 steps carrying breakables on Sunday.”
Following that admission in a December 2019 hearing, Guy Jr. changed his story, instead, he agreed to stipulation that his hands were injured in an “altercation” with both parents.
His reasoning for going back to Louisiana is that he didn’t have health insurance. He intended to go back to the Goldenview Lane house “immediately”, which is why investigators would find his laptop on his bed, still turned on.
“I had some rather severe cuts on my hands. I had a cut on my right palm, right here where there’s a scar. And I also had a very severe cut on my left thumb, where there’s also a scar. I was worried about losing my left thumb, so I needed medical treatment.”Joel Guy Jr. describing his 2016 injuries during a 2019 hearing.
After receiving treatment, Guy Jr. went back to his family’s house between Monday night and Tuesday morning. When he got there, he saw crime scene tape around the house, saw police cars, and saw his parents’ cars were gone.
So, he left. He never went up to the house or the investigators. Driving back to Baton Rogue, stopping near Chattanooga to withdraw from an ATM.
Guy Jr. was arrested on Nov. 29th in Baton Rogue, after what investigators believe was at least three days after his parents were killed.
Hearings, motions, filings in court
Since 2016, there have been dozens of appearances in court, including the most recent appearance Wednesday. Guy Jr. is represented by a team of veteran lawyers.
Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steven Sword ruled at a motion hearing that Guy Jr. can act as his own attorney at trial, but only regarding his written motions to allow the judge or jury the option to impose the death penalty if he’s convicted despite prosecutors not seeking capital punishment.
His defense team, a group of lawyers than includes Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Harwell and now-retired Knox County public defender Mark Stephens, have established in other hearings they are not attempting to show Guy Jr. Is mentally impaired.
Guy Jr. is facing charges of first-degree murder, felony murder and abuse of a corpse.
Evidence from Baton Rogue can’t be used at trial
A notable moment during hearings over the last four years, whether evidence seized at Guy Jr.’s Baton Rogue apartment can be used as evidence during his trial.
Judge Sword ruled it will not be admissible in the case. However, evidence seized at the Knox County scene of the crime can still be used at trial.
Sword ruled the search warrant failed to establish close connection between the alleged crimes in Knox County, Guy’s apartment in Baton Rouge and the items to be seized.
Investigators established Guy was charged with the murders and was arrested at the Baton Rouge apartment the next day, but did not indicate the Guy had entered his apartment after the alleged murders.
Investigators failed to describe the manner of the homicide that would justify collection of blood, bodily fluids, hair and fiber evidence at the Baton Rouge apartment.
“The connection between the cellphones, electronic devices and computers is not supported at all by the facts,” Sword wrote in his rulings on the motions to suppress.
Trial to start in Knox County
The original date of Guy Jr.’s trial was February, moved due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Jury selection will begin Thursday and opening statements are expected to start on Monday.
Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steven Sword ruled at a motion hearing Wednesday that Guy Jr. can act as his own attorney at trial, but only regarding his written motions to allow the judge or jury the option to impose the death penalty if he’s convicted despite prosecutors not seeking capital punishment.
At least 60 witnesses are listed.