Gatrell found guilty in assault case

January 17, 1997


Staff Writer

A Washington County Circuit Court jury needed just over an hour Thursday afternoon to find a 36-year-old man guilty of assault with intent to murder his brother-in-law in July of 1995.

Donald "Donnie" Gatrell Jr. also was found to be criminally responsible for the knife attack in which he proclaimed he was "a warrior for Christ."

Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III ordered Gatrell held without bond in the Washington County Detention Center pending completion of a pre-sentence investigation.


In addition to a possible 30-year sentence for assault with intent to murder, Gatrell faces additional penalties for convictions of assault, battery and carrying a concealed weapon with intent to injure.

The stabbing victim, Jerry Edward Moreland, was hospitalized on July 20, 1995, for treatment of stab wounds.

Moreland testified Wednesday that the events leading up to the stabbing began two days earlier when an argument began after Moreland asked Gatrell about a drink he was mixing.

"He began cursing me and threatening me and I told him I couldn't have this in my house," Moreland said.

That night, Gatrell went after Moreland with a claw hammer, according to testimony.

Gatrell fled and the next day, his family obtained emergency psychiatric commitment papers for him.

Deputies spotted him that night in the Halfway area around 7 p.m., but he fled on foot.

He later was spotted going into the Virginia Avenue property, where he lived in a smokehouse behind the farmhouse.

The property was searched by police but Gatrell was not found.

Moreland testified that on July 20, he was outside near the outbuilding when Gatrell approached him.

During a confrontation, Moreland apparently sprayed a pepper spray onto Gatrell but it had no effect.

Gatrell bit Moreland in the arm and stabbed him in the back twice as Moreland ran to the house for protection.

Inside, Gatrell stabbed Moreland three times in the chest and many times in the face, in full view of Moreland's wife and three children.

"He said he was going to kill me," Moreland said. He sustained serious facial cuts, wounds to his hands and wrists and several stab wounds to the back and chest, one of which collapsed his lung.

Gatrell, his eyes watering from the effects of the irritant, ran off laughing, witnesses told police.

A search ended when a "war whoop" was heard coming from a wooded area near the family farm, allowing police to close in on Gatrell.

He surrendered without incident, professing himself as an Indian and "a warrior for Christ," deputies said.

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