A photo caption incorrectly identified Emily Chapel as Emily Wright. This has been corrected.
With a jury empaneled and all requirements met, the trial for a man accused of murder following a 2019 stabbing downtown began on Wednesday afternoon.
Fenton Leon Jacobs, 42, was arrested following an altercation in May 2019 when he allegedly stabbed a man downtown while intoxicated, leading to William Scott Campbell’s death. Jacobs is charged with felony first-degree murder, two counts of felony second-degree murder, two counts of felony third-degree assault, first-degree harassment and resisting arrest.
“This case is about a man looking for a fight,” said Jessalyn Gillum, leading the prosecution for the state, during her opening statement. “He found one. As a result, a man lost his life and a wife became a widow.”
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The defense painted a different picture, not of Jacobs as carrying his anger in his heart but as a man defending himself from , stabbing him in self-defense after Campbell attacked him.
“This case is about self-defense,” said public defender Nicolas Ambrose. “Mr. Jacobs defends himself with his knife. And then Mr. Campbell runs away.”
Fenton Jacobs, his younger brother Leroy Jacobs, and a third man, Chris Davidson, had been drinking for some time on the day of the fatal altercation, Ambrose said. Gillum pointed to an incident earlier in the day in which Fenton Jacobs had threatened some people near Foodland IGA, including the first witness, Ernest Grant.
“He told me to shut up or he was going to stab me too,” Grant testified. “To me it looked like he was walking towards me, and I turned and ran. I ran towards the liquor store because that was the only place that I knew cameras to be.”
The Jacobs brothers and Davidson eventually made their way to Franklin Street, where they were drinking, Ambrose said.
“You’ll see evidence that Mr. Davidson and Mr Jacobs are play-wrestling out front of the Liquor Cache,” Ambrose said. “Everyone’s having a good time. Everyone is drunk. They’ve been drinking all day.”
Fenton Jacobs encountered Scott Campbell and his wife, Monica Campbell, downtown, where they had been drinking at the Lucky Lady. Fenton Jacobs and the Campbells got in a first altercation, before separating, Gillum said.
“You’ll see evidence that Ms. Campbell walks around the corner and punches Leroy Jacobs in the face,” Ambrose said. “She’s putting her hands all over Leroy Jacobs.”
The Campbells and Fenton Jacobs would get into a second confrontation along Franklin Street before separating again, Ambrose said. Further insults were exchanged by both sides.
“Shortly after midnight Scott and Monica encountered the defendant for a third and final time,” Gillum said.
A fight broke out between the groups near the old Rockwell Building in the 100 block of Fanklin Street, with some people attempting to fight while others attempted to deescalate. Ambrose showed the jury video from a camera looking up the street that is able to capture some of the incident.
“(Fenton) charges up the hill and attacks the couple,” Gillum said. “The scene is chaotic.”
At this point, Fenton stabbed Scott several times, Gillum said. According to the medical examiner scheduled to testify, Scott was stabbed in the hand, arm and fatally, the torso.
“Scott Campbell realizes he’s been stabbed and he’s bleeding heavily,” Campbell said. “He collapses to the sidewalk as the defendant walks into the Liquor Cache like nothing happened.”
Ambrose said that Fenton Jacobs walked into the Liquor Cache to tell someone to call emergency services. Police arrived, Gillum said, responding to a report of a fight and instead found Campbell badly wounded. Fenton was arrested shortly thereafter, Gillum said, and a folded pocketknife with what would turn out to be Campbell’s blood on the blade was found on his person, according to investigators.
“He used that knife to stab Scott Campbell over and over,” Gillum said. “No one else was found with a knife, including Scott.”
Fenton Jacobs vigorously resisted arrest, Gillum said, trying to kick out the windows of the squad car he was detained in. Officers trying to restrain him punched Fenton Jacobs in the nose in the course of events, and Fenton was spitting blood at the officers, Gillum said.
While no weapon was found on Campbell’s person, he appeared like he could be wielding one in some of the video, Ambrose said, questioning whether he was unarmed. The crime scene was not locked down for a little bit, with vehicles and pedestrians traversing the area, and at one point, a couple walking through the area appears to stop and pick something up on the video, Ambrose said.
“Think of this case as a giant puzzle made up of small individual pieces. Each piece equals one witness or one piece of evidence,” Gillum said to the jury. “You will be the ones to put that puzzle together.”
The trial continues on Thursday morning.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.