Berkebile Convicted of Criminally Negligent Homicide
Prosecutors in DA Charme Allen’s Major Crimes Unit obtained a conviction against a man who coerced a woman to kill herself for his viewing pleasure. Hayden Jennings Berkebile, 29, was convicted of Criminally Negligent Homicide. Judge Steve Sword set the case for sentencing on June 30, revoked Berkebile’s bond, and ordered him into custody.
In a four-day trial, Assistant District Attorneys Hector Sanchez and Rachel Lambert explained to the jury that Berkebile and the victim had a years-long relationship where Berkebile developed sexual control over the victim causing her to engage in dangerous and demeaning acts. On September 29, 2019, Berkebile was in Indiana, where he lived, and was communicating over video chat with the victim in her Knoxville home. Berkebile coerced the victim into putting a bullet in the cylinder of a .357 revolver and spinning it to play Russian roulette. Berkebile had the victim show him the revolver. At that point, Berkebile knew where the bullet was located and that the revolver would fire when the trigger was pulled. The victim did not know where the bullet was located in the cylinder. Berkebile then coerced her into putting the gun to her head and pulling the trigger. Knoxville Police Department Inv. Chas Terry responded to a 911 call from Berkebile about a suicide regarding a woman who shot herself in a West Knoxville home; however, as more evidence was uncovered, it became clear the victim did not want to die and that this was not a suicide due to the coercion of the victim by Berkebile. Assistant District Attorney Sean Roberts and Acting Assistant District Attorney Caitlin Hoch-Nussbaum assisted in the case by reading over 1300 messages between Berkebile and the victim to establish the amount of control he had over her actions.
“Thanks to the hard work of the investigators and prosecutors in this case, this victim’s family was able to receive closure knowing the Defendant was held accountable,” said DA Charme Allen.
Criminally Negligent Homicide is a Class E felony that carries a punishment of one to two years. At sentencing, prosecutors will ask that Berkebile serve the sentence in custody. Assistant Victim Witness Coordinator Veronica Fay aided in the prosecution of this case.
If you have any questions, please contact Sean McDermott at 865-215-2515 or [email protected]. For more information about the District Attorney’s Office, visit our website at dag.knoxcountytn.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.