New details have emerged in the bizarre scene that resulted in the husband of the late Jean Shepard being taken to the hospital with a stab wound, and two people found dead in the home he shared with the country music legend.
Benny Birchfield was reportedly protecting his granddaughter, 18-year-old Icie Sloan-Hawkins, from her abusive boyfriend, 21-year-old Travis Sanders, when he shot and killed Sanders early Saturday (12-17) morning, according to the family. Unfortunately, Icie Sloan-Hawkins did not survive. She later died of her stab wounds after being transported to the hospital. Hawkins is the daughter of Don Hawkins and Velvet Sloan. Don Hawkins is one of two children Jean Shepard had with her first husband, Hawkshaw Hawkins.
79-year-old Benny Birchfield was found by police in his front yard, suffering from a stab wound at 3 a.m. Saturday morning after police had received a phone call about a stabbing in the 200 block of Elnora Court in Hendersonville. According to family members, Icie Sloan-Hawkins had been living with her grandparents to help around the house. Jean Shepard, who had Parkinson’s Disease, died in September, but Icie stayed around to help Birchfield with errands and chores.
Velvet Sloan–Icie’s mother—states to The Tennessean that Icie Sloan-Hawkins and Travis Sanders had been friends, and began dating a few years ago. They broke up after Hawkins discovered Sanders had stolen money from her, and also broke her phone. After hearing the couple fighting in the basement, Benny Birchfield confronted Travis Sanders, and after being stabbed, when upstairs to get his gun, eventually shooting Sanders. Birchfield was taken to the hospital on Saturday and underwent surgery, and was discharged on Monday.
Police are not confirming the story of the family, and are not currently pressing any charges in the case. “We are collecting more information as we go,” Detective Sgt. Jim Vaughn said Monday to The Tennessean. “We pretty much have the who, what, when and where, but we don’t have the why.”
Benny Birchfield is known throughout the country music community himself as a musician who once performed with Roy Orbison and the Osborne Brothers. He also worked with the Osborne Brothers as their tour manager and bus driver for many years.