Foutch/ Meeks guilty, now facing additional felony charges
After a long morning of jury selection, the trial of Kelly Foutch and Labreeska Meeks got underway on Wednesday, July 26. Foutch and Meeks were charged with possession of a forged instrument, passing a forged instrument, and theft, All Class A felonies. It was alleged that they, along with James Edward “Eddie” Campbell, Jr. attempted to pass a will forged with the signature of Campbell’s late father, James Campbell, Sr., in August of 2012.
Campbell, Jr. was tried in late June of last year, with a jury returning a verdict of not guilty of count one (forgery), but guilty on the lesser charges of the following attempts: passing a forged instrument over $250,000, possession of a forged instrument over $250,000, and conspiracy to commit theft over $250,000.
The motivation is greed
“This is a case of greed,” stated District Attorney David Shinn in his opening remarks. First on the stand was James Stephens. Stephens previously had a private law practice in Tracy City and prepared wills for Campbell, Sr. and his wife Betty Sue on September 20, 2000. The wills were “mirror opposites” according to Stevens – if Campbell, Sr. passed away first, everything went to Betty Sue; if Betty Sue passed away first, everything went to Campbell, Sr. On both of their deaths, everything passed to their children, Campbell, Jr. and Susan Lutz.
Later testimony by other witnesses detailed the contents of the other two wills presented as evidence. A will filed by Mickey McCloud and dated 2007, left one-third of the estate of Campbell, Sr. to his grandson – the son of Lutz; one-third of the estate to Mickey Macloud; and, one-third of the estate to his two granddaughters – daughters of Campbell, Jr. The will filed by Campbell, Jr. and allegedly signed by Campbell, Sr. in 2012, restores the inheritance to Campbell, Jr. and Lutz, disinherits Macloud and his two granddaughters, and leaves a home to his grandson.
Chancery Court Clerk and Master Phyllis Dent was also on the stand, testifying to the filing of two wills on August 29, 2012, after the death of Campbell, Sr. earlier that month. The first will was filed by Campbell’s girlfriend Mickey Macloud. The second will (the one in question in this case and witnessed by Foutch and Meeks) was filed later that same day by Campbell, Jr. and Lutz.
A “curious clause”
The most interesting fact to come out of the first day’s portion of the trial concerned witness affidavits. In the will filed by Campbell, Jr. and Lutz, there was what the prosecution called a “curious clause” stating “I hearby request upon my death the attesting witnesses make affidavit of these events.”
Witness James Stephens called this a highly “bizarre” practice. Why? Normally, a will and the accompanying signatures are notarized at the time of signing. According to Stephens, this has several advantages. For example, the witnesses could pass away before the will was notarized or it might be difficult to find them after the death of the person making the will. In general, Stephens said, it makes sense to have the will notarized at the time all are present for the signing. In fact, the will presented to Chancery Court for probate by MacCloud followed this practice, with the will being signed and notarized on the same day.
But, the will presented by Campbell, Jr. and Lutz did not follow this normal procedure. It included the clause noted above and was signed in March of 2012 (with this being the signature in question), but not notarized until August 28, 2012 (after the death of Campbell, Sr.).
This practice of notarizing a will after the death of will’s maker is not considered illegal, but as Stephens stated in his testimony, it is “bizarre.” Other lawyers who took the stand over the three-day trial also claimed there were no advantages, and many disadvantages to this clause.
A misspelled name
On Thursday, Jane Eakes, a certified document examiner from Nashville, testified that Campbell, Sr. did not sign the questionable 2012 will, and that the signature was forged by Campbell, Jr. Of note, stated Eakes, were the formation of the letter “p” in both signatures, and the misspelling of “Jim” in the 2012 will. The name was signed Jem E. Campbell, not Jim or James E. Campbell.
A broken father
Further witness testimony on Thursday detailed the fractured relationship between Campbell, Sr. and his children. In January, 2012, then Tracy City Police Chief Tony Bean (currently Chief Deputy with the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department) was called to the residence of Campbell, Sr. Once he arrived, Bean testified he found both Campbell, Jr. and Lutz at the home. Campbell, Sr. was in the bedroom and asked Bean, “Do I have to be a prisoner in my own home and be smacked around by people? They are forcing me to say things that aren’t true.” Campbell, Sr. told Bean he wanted Campbell, Jr. and Lutz removed, and said they had “already broken” him twice.
Bean was recalled as a rebuttal witness on the following day, and stated he saw Campbell, Sr. on the day before his death. He told Bean he was still scared, but had taken care of all matters. He said he was scared of his son and could not manhandle him anymore.
Leaning toward forgery
On Friday, the defense called FBI forensic examiner Gregg Mokrzycki to the stand. He stated that after examining the documents and other signatures of Campbell, Sr. and Campbell, Jr., he was unable to render a definitive decision on whether the signature on the 2012 will was that of Campbell, Sr. However, after completing his examination, he said he leaned more toward Campbell, Sr. not signing the will.
Foutch takes stand
Also on Friday, Foutch took the stand. He became flustered by prosecution questions and made several inappropriate verbal comments to D.A. Shinn. And, a portion of his testimony on Friday did not match testimony given in a 2013 disposition on the case.
Meeks did not take the stand in her defense.
Jury returns verdict
The jury was dismissed to deliberate Friday afternoon, and returned their decision after two and one-half hours.
Kelly Foutch was found guilty of passing a forged instrument over $250,000 (Class A Felony), possession of a forged instrument over $250,000 (Class A Felony), and attempt to commit conspiracy to commit theft over $250,000 (Class C Felony).
Labreeska Meeks was found guilty of passing a forged instrument over $250,000 (Class A Felony), possession of a forged instrument over $250,000 (Class A Felony), and conspiracy to commit theft over $250,000 (Class A Felony).
Due to the seriousness of the crimes, all previous bonds were revoked, no new bonds were issued, and Foutch and Meeks were immediately taken into custody and remanded to the Grundy County Jail.
More charges for pair
The pair are now facing more felony charges. Both were charged with the introduction of contraband into a penal facility. While the full details of these most recent charges have not been released, the Herald has confirmed that Meeks attempted to bring a video camera into the jail.
Sentencing in the case will be on October 24.