Attorneys paint different versions of incident

Benjamin Wayne Lindsey

On March 4, 2018, Jose Chavez was found beaten and unable to say more than mutter "help me" in the back of his vehicle at his home on Wandering Lane.

Chavez died 13 days later from severe head trauma that included a brain hemorrhage and brain swelling.

Benjamin Wayne Lindsey, 28, of Owensboro was arrested a few days after Chavez's death and charged with second-degree manslaughter. On Tuesday, the first day of Lindsey's trial, the prosecution and defense essentially agreed there had been an altercation between the two that ended when Lindsey struck Chavez, causing Chavez to fall and strike his head on the pavement.

But the prosecution and defense theories of what led up to the moment when Lindsey struck Chavez were very different.

Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Quattrocchi, in his opening statement to the jury, described Lindsey as angry about an incident he'd had with Chavez about an hour earlier and was seeking retribution.

Chavez and Lindsey were either friends or just drinking buddies, as Chavez's wife, Terry Chavez, told jurors. But the two would often hang out, and had they had gone with two others to Evansville the night of March 3, where they went to the casino and several other places before heading back to Owensboro at 1 a.m.

Quattrocchi told jurors that, on the way back, Chavez and Lindsey got into an argument that escalated to the point of Chavez striking Lindsey, who was driving Chavez's car at the time.

In Owensboro, they went to the 600 block of Crittenden Street, where the group planned to separate for the night. At that point, Quattrocchi told jurors, the people with Chavez and Lindsey heard smacking sounds, and turned in time to see Chavez fall and strike his head.

"While he (Lindsey) wanted to paint the picture to (investigators) that this was self defense, that Mr. Chavez had come at him in an aggressive manner in some way ... the evidence is not there," Quattrocchi told jurors. Witnesses at the home would testify differently, he said.

"The magical words were stated by Mr. Lindsey: 'that's what you get for hitting me earlier,'" Quattrocchi said.

Later, Quattrocchi said the assault "was a clear act of retribution for what had happened earlier."

Terry Chavez testified she was at home on Wandering Lane and was waiting for her husband to arrive at 3:15 a.m. when a man opened her door with her husband's keys.

"I stepped back an inch or so because I didn't know this person," initially, she said. The man, later identified as Lindsey, told her, "Your husband is in the back seat of his car too intoxicated to get up. By the way, he has a cut on the back of his head." Chavez said the man then left and she called 911 because she was too scared to go outside.

"I didn't know who was out there in that area who could hurt me as they'd done my husband," Chavez said.

Dr. Anthony Decker, who runs the trauma program at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, said Chavez was found to have hemorrhages and swelling in his brain, and a skull fracture.

Dr. Christopher Kiefer, of the state medical examiner's office, testified the death was caused by blunt force trauma and it was determined to have been a homicide.

Owensboro Police Department officers who examined Chavez's car and lifted fingerprints from a passenger-side door and a window also testified Tuesday.

Part of the trial will center on how long Lindsey waited to do anything about Chavez's injuries. Quattrocchi told jurors Lindsey indicated to others there that night he was going to take Chavez to the hospital, but only drove him home to Wandering Lane, informed Chavez's wife, and then fled the scene.

Defense attorney Leigh Jackson, in her opening statement to jurors, said Chavez "didn't want to go to the hospital. He wanted to go home." Jackson told jurors Lindsey twice went to Chavez's home and tried to inform his wife, but that she didn't answer the door the first time he knocked.

Jackson argued that even immediate medical treatment would not have saved Chavez's life.

"We expect the testimony to be from the moment his head struck the pavement, he began to die, and that immediate attention, whether it was two minutes, 20 minutes or two hours, unfortunately, was not going to save him," Jackson said.

That argument was later confirmed by Decker, who said while time is always of the essence in cases of head trauma, "given the injury, I don't think any amount of intervention would have helped."

Jackson said the defense contends that while Lindsey did hit Chavez, he did so because he felt threatened.

"We expect you to hear (from witnesses) that words where exchanged," Jackson said. "What is disputed is what exactly was said by Ben, and when."

Later, Jackson said, "you're going to hear from Ben he was walking towards his car when Mr. Chavez approached. (Lindsey) turned and Mr. Chavez was in somewhat of a fighting stance. It wasn't clear if he was going to grab Ben or hit Ben, and, reflexively, Ben struck him first."

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20 in Daviess Circuit Court.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303,, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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