Samuel Earl “Sam” Rich was found guilty of attempted first degree murder Thursday in the shooting of Hannah Grace “Gracie” Perryman at a Bedford County home last summer.
The verdict ended a four-day trial at Bedford County Judicial Center. A sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 4.
Rich showed no emotion when the verdict was announced and was smiling while talking with family members moments later.
Perryman had just entered the Temple Ford Road home of her former fiance, Will Warner, around 1 a.m. last Aug. 13. She entered a bedroom looking for Warner, whose vehicle was parked in the driveway, and was almost immediately shot in the face by Rich.
Investigators allege Rich had fatally shot Warner around an hour and a half earlier late Aug. 12 in Nashville, then driven Warner’s SUV back to the Temple Ford Road home. The jury was told Warner was known to keep large sums of cash in the residence.
Rich fled in the stolen SUV after shooting Perryman and drove to an isolated area off Hilltop Road in southern Bedford County. The vehicle was found abandoned there later in the morning through GPS technology. A manhunt followed, but by that time Rich had summoned friends who picked him up and went to Murfreesboro. Rich surrendered two days later.
The jury also found Rich guilty of employment of a firearm during commission of a felony, theft, possession of a firearm, especially aggravated burglary, aggravated burglary, theft, possession of a firearm, and tampering with evidence.
The firearms charges were upgraded to enhanced charges by the jury. Jurors were told after the verdict was handed down that Rich had been convicted on drug possession/sales charges in 2018 and had possessed a gun during those crimes.
Sentencing will occur at a later date. A date will be set soon for Rich’s murder trial in Nashville.
Defense attorney Robert Marlow of Shelbyville called no witnesses nor made a closing argument. The jury had heard two days of testimony from witnesses called by Assistant District Attorneys Roger Moore and Jan Norman from Davidson County. They and Judge Thomas John Wright of Greeneville handled the case due to familiarity between local and area judges, the Bedford County District Attorney’s office and Rich’s father, Bedford County General Sessions Judge Charles Rich.
Fateful final hours
Much of Wednesday afternoon’s and Thursday morning’s testimony involved establishing a timeline of events leading up to Warner’s murder and the shooting of Perryman.
Chad Gish, a detective in the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department’s Surveillance Investigative Support Unit and an expert in computer forensics, explained how he used data from a breathalyzer installed on Warner’s 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee to track its movements from a home on Hilltop Road near Flat Creek to Warner’s home, to Nashville, briefly back to Warner’s home at the time Perryman was shot, and to its final destination in a wooded area off Hilltop Road where Rich allegedly abandoned the SUV.
Evidence from Warner’s cellphone showed he had sent a photo of himself holding a large sum of money to another individual early on the morning of Aug. 13.
“It was sort of normal for Warner to take photos of large amounts of money,” Gish said. Warner had withdrawn a large amount of money from a Shelbyville bank within a few days before Aug. 12-13, jurors were told.
Perryman had testified earlier that Warner was known to keep substantial sums of cash in his home.
The breathalyzer device frequently required Warner to blow into the unit before and while driving and photographed him doing so multiple times on Aug. 12, Gish said. Front seat passengers, including Rich, could be seen in photos shown to jurors.
Those check-ins and data from Warner’s phone show him and Rich going to the Hilltop Road home of Ross Boyce, a friend of Rich’s, leaving around 7:20 p.m. Aug. 13 and arriving at 8 p.m.
From there, records show Warner and Rich drove to the wooded area about a mile away from Boyce’s home where the SUV waslater discovered.
They stayed approximately 10 to 15 minutes before returning briefly to the Warner home, then on to Nashville. Security video from a convenience store in the Antioch area around 10:26 p.m. show Warner purchasing apple juice and cigarettes. Photos from the breathalyzer showed Warner driving and Rich as a passenger during that period.
The data tracked the vehicle from the store to the location on Delaware Street in Nashville where Warner’s body was found, arriving at 11:26 p.m. Aug. 12.
The Jeep’s engine was shut off at 11:26 and software on Warner’s Apple iPhone tracked what Gish called “the last three steps that Will Warner took” 16 seconds later. Warner’s phone was found near his body by Metro police.
Evidence shows the Jeep’s engine was restarted, allegedly by Rich, at 11:27 p.m. Gish noted photos showed the breathalyzer’s camera was covered from that point and breath tests failed because Rich wasn’t blowing into the unit hard enough.
Perryman testified Warner’s Jeep was at his home when she arrived shortly before 1 a.m. Aug. 13. Computer analysis shows the Jeep’s engine was cut off at 12:57 a.m. and restarted at 12:59. Perryman called 911 at 1:01 a.m.
Warner and Rich had been together earlier that evening, Perryman said. Warner had texted her around 9:30-10 p.m. the night of the shooting and asked her to come spend the night, she said. She arrived at the home to find the SUV gone, took a nap and “panicked” when she awoke and he still hadn’t returned by 12:30 a.m.
Perryman said she left the home to look for Warner and his SUV was at the home when she returned – but in a different location from where he normally parked. She entered the home, searched for him and called Warner’s name.
She testified she entered a bedroom, turned around and was met by Rich.
“He met me in the doorway. He had one arm behind his back. I was crying. He said, ‘What’s wrong?’ then almost immediately I realized I had been shot,” she said.
Under cross-examination by Marlow, Perryman said Rich seemed “sporadic” as he asked the question.
“I hit the ground. I feared that he was going to shoot me again and I prayed that he would go away,” Perryman told the court. “My eyes were closed but I heard him run down the hallway and exit the house.”
She described the shot as feeling “like a burning sensation in my face.”
Perryman said she was in intensive care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for two weeks and on a feeding tube for two months. The shot, just under her right eye, led to a reconstructed eye socket, vocal chord surgery and relearning to swallow, she said. Bullet fragments remain in her face.
From there, breathalyzer records show, Rich allegedly drove to the wooded area on Hilltop Road where the Jeep was abandoned.
Flight to woods
Boyce testified that Rich showed up at his home briefly sometime after 1 a.m., awakened him by knocking on a window and was “a little bit wet.”
He went back to sleep and, later in the day, discovered his cell phone was missing. A co-worker said he received a text that day from Boyce’s phone stating, “I put the ice in the dog food bag.”
Boyce later found Rich’s phone in a dog food bag at the Boyce home.
Rich allegedly partially disconnected the breathalyzer after arriving on Hilltop Road. The GPS on Warner’s SUV, which had been inpoerative, began functioning around the time the breathalyzer was disconnected, Gish said. It showed the engine being turned off and on at one point after it was parked at its final destination.
Records from Boyce’s phone show a series of goodbye texts Rich sent to friend Falicia Fletcher between 5:30 and 8:46 a.m. Aug. 13 through one of Boyce’s social media accounts. “This is it. I love you,” was sent at 8:36 a.m. and, finally, “I love you but I have to go,” at 8:46 a.m.
During that period Rich was texting GPS coordinates of his location to a friend, Dion Cole of Murfreesboro.
“It was like he was trying to find an escape plan to get out from where he was at,” Gish said.
Jillian Hamlin of Murfreesboro told the court she was asked by Cole, her then-boyfriend with whom she shared a home, to drive him to an unspecified “wooded area outside Shelbyville” using a GPS address early that Friday morning. They arrived to find Rich by the roadside wearing a t-shirt, shorts and houseshoes and appearing “tired,” she said.
Rich turned himself in to a TBI agent and a Bedford County detective in Murfreesboro two days later.
Neither Boyce, Hamlin or Cole face any charges. Rich told Andrew Rittenhouse, a cellmate at Davidson County Jail, that Boyce was not involved in any of his alleged activities after leaving the Hilltop Road home for Nashville the night before, Marlow said.
As officers were searching the Flat Creek-Raus area for Rich, a TBI technical specialist was able to track the approximate location of the Grand Cherokee through its entertainment system to the grove of trees, TBI Special Agent Bobby Simmons said.
Inside was a receipt for a $10,000 withdrawal from a Shelbyville bank by Warner, two empty bank bags, and a vape pen and apple juice container with Rich’s fingerprints, Simmons said. Within the apple juice container was a cigarette butt with Rich’s DNA.
Rittenhouse told jurors Wednesday that Rich said he’d held Warner at gunpoint during the drive to Nashville, dumped his body and allegedly melted the gun used in the slaying, disposing of the pieces in a small lake near where SUV was found. The pieces of the gun have not been recovered.
Marlow suggested to the jury that Rittenhouse may have fabricated information in return for a reduction of his own charges.
Rittenhouse said Rich asked him if “money can be washed off of money in pockets” and mentioned “$25,000...there was supposed to be a lot of money in Will’s house.”
Warner had just “flipped” a house shortly before the shootings and supposedly had several thousand dollars in proceeds, Simmons said.
Perryman said she’d had no previous problems with Rich, although a years-long friendship had cooled when he and Warner had a falling-out. She testified she and Rich had texted back-and-forth “multiple times” several days before the shooting.
Perryman said Rich is unable to let go of slights and grievances and she never felt “safe and comfortable” around him. She said she would not have gone into Warner’s home the night of the shooting if she’d known Rich was there.
Rich had previously dated Fletcher and they had double-dated with Warner and Perryman at one point, Perryman said.
Warner and Perryman had ended their engagement and were no longer living together at the time of the shooting, she said. She told the court during questioning by Norman she was dating others but she and Warner remained friends and she spent nights at his home “pretty often.”
James Warner said his son, Will, and Rich had been friends from early childhood until 2019. Several witnesses said the friendship ended over relations with a girl, Alexis, who later married Rich.
“We know he (Rich) is a master manipulator,” James Warner said on cross-examination by Marlow. “I told him (Will) don’t have anything to do with him, he’s said he was going to kill us for two years. It had cooled down the past two or three months, we weren’t getting a lot of threats.
“We constantly monitored his (Will’s) phone and knew he wasn’t in contact with him.” Will’s phone was on the Warner family’s account, James said.
Alexis and Sam Rich eventually broke up and she lived at Will Warner’s home for a short time, then with James Warner and his wife, Christy, for a while, according to testimony. James described Alexis as being “black and blue and beat up” at the time she left Rich.
James Warner testified he was unaware of any intimate relationship between Alexis and his son.
Boyce testified Rich was “livid — 9.9 on a 1-to-10 scale” — over Alexis having lived with Warner.
Randall “Scotty” Layman, a friend who sometimes went hunting and fishing with Warner, testified Rich was at Warner’s home the afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 12.
Boyce, who said he and Rich are “like best friends,” testified he was surprised to see the men together Aug. 12 knowing their past problems. The men stayed for several minutes before leaving, Boyce said. Gish said Boyce appeareed to be Rich’s only “close friend” at the time of the shooting.
Rich allegedly told Boyce he and Warner were headed to Antioch that Thursday night to purchase heroin. No evidence was presented to show any drug buy was actually made.