By Michael Kloppenburg
An altercation during a wedding reception at a private club near Bluff Springs led to the stabbing of the groom according to testimony at a preliminary hearing into the case in Cass County Court. Shane A. Ward, 40, of Griggsville, faces two counts of aggravated battery. He is accused of stabbing Steve Sappington, 51, also of Griggsville, in the neck.
A witness to the incident, Jason Zimmerman, and Cass County Sheriff’s Deputy Devron Ohrn, who responded to the incident, testified at the hearing. Zimmerman said that a heated conversation between Sappington and Ward escalated into a fight.
Zimmerman was outside the club with another witness, Jason Dunmeyer, when Ward and Sappington exited the club. Ward was upset because his ex-girlfriend had been invited to a later reception at Griggsville. Zimmerman said Ward’s ex-girlfriend has a restraining order against him and Ward would not be able to attend the reception because of the order. Sappington attempted to placate Ward by telling him he would call Ward after his ex-girlfriend left so he could come to the reception.
Zimmerman said he and Dunmeyer kept other attendees inside the club so that the two could settle their dispute privately.
Instead, the incident escalated. Ward began to make comments about his ex-girlfriend being unfaithful to him. Zimmerman said that Sappington then shoved Ward onto a picnic table and started punching him. In response, Zimmerman and Dunmeyer went to separate the two. Zimmerman restrained Ward, who was bleeding from a cut in his hair, and Dunmeyer restrained Sappington.
After speaking with Ward for several minutes, Zimmerman said he went back to the club to get a wash cloth for Ward. He turned around to see Ward approaching Sappington and Dunmeyer. Zimmerman said he saw Ward reach over Dunmeyer’s shoulder from behind to strike Sappington in the neck.
Zimmerman said Sappington yelled, “He just cut me” and ran back into the club. Zimmerman said he wrestled Ward to the ground and got the knife, which Zimmerman described as a “folding box cutter,” away from Ward.
Afterward, Sappington was rushed to Passavant Hospital in Jacksonville.
Deputy Ohrn said Sappington was cut from near his left ear to the middle of his throat. Ohrn said the cut had either just missed or had nicked his carotid artery. Ohrn also said Sappington lost consciousness during the ride to the hospital. Sappington spent the night in the hospital and underwent surgery.
Ward was later arrested and posted bond.
On cross-examination, Ward’s attorney, Jesse R. Gilsdorf, questioned Ohrn about why he had not done more investigation into the injuries his client had sustained. Eventually, Gilsdorf began to question Ohrn’s competence as a sheriff’s deputy.
During cross-examination of Zimmerman, Gilsdorf and Zimmerman verbally spared over the nature of the club where the incident took place. Gilsdorf repeatedly called it a bar and Zimmerman took exception to the description. Gilsdorf continued to call the club a bar after Zimmerman’s testimony. Finally, Mason County Judge Alan Tucker, substituting for Judge Bob Hardwick, Jr., weighed in.
“I’ve heard no evidence of a bar,” said Tucker.
After the testimony, Gilsdorf tried to persuade Tucker to dismiss the charges against Ward. He said that because Dunmeyer was taller than both Ward and Sappington, Ward would have had to reach up over Dunmeyer’s shoulder and then down again to strike Sappington in the neck. Tucker was not persuaded and found probable cause for the charges. Ward was arraigned and pleaded not guilty and the case was set on the February jury call.
The aggravated battery counts are charged as class three felonies. A class 3 felony could result in a prison sentence of two to five years as well as fines up to $10,000.