Friend dead, husband in jail
Forty-one-year old Teresa Hall Sparks' face wrenches tightly when she talks about Sammy William Sturgill. The two, in her words, were "running partners" for most of the three years leading up to his stabbing death on June 24. But the one man she says she truly loved, Bobby Dean Sparks, sits in jail charged with murder in Sturgill's death.
The last time she saw either of them was as she was being loaded into an ambulance, leaving Sturgill, 48, and Bobby Sparks, 62, alone at the Sparkses' house. She wasn't there to see what went wrong, but while people who have spoken out on the incident disagree on what they think happened, the theories usually in some way have something to do with her.
She and Sturgill met in 2007, when she was Teresa Lynn Hall. They lived in a house on Conley Place at north Main Street. That was where Sturgill was arrested March 9 and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury. He was accused of stabbing a neighbor, Charles “T-Roy” Davidson.
Davidson lost an eye in the attack, and both of his lungs were punctured. He maintains the attack was unprovoked, and Bobby Sparks' family has questioned why Lenoir police chose to offer no evidence in the case in a March 31 hearing, resulting in the charge being dropped and Sturgill going free.
But Teresa Sparks, the only other person who was in the Conley Place house at the time of that stabbing, said it may be because Davidson instigated the fight, calling Sturgill names and finally attacking him. Sturgill pulled out his knife in self-defense, and Davidson got the worst of the fight, she said.
She had known Bobby Sparks for a couple of years, and he and Sturgill would often drink together. But she says her relationship with Bobby Sparks only became romantic in March, during the time that Sturgill was in jail. It began with a simple conversation when they ran into each other at the Fast Stop convenience store on Blowing Rock Boulevard.
"We talked about what happened to T-Roy and about Sammy being in jail," she said.
She remained living with Sturgill when he got out of jail, but the house was condemned in April because of a fire. That left them homeless, and they slept in the woods behind Kimbrell's Furniture off Pennton Avenue. She moved in with Bobby Sparks shortly afterward, while Sturgill was still on the street. She and Sparks got married in early June.
Though Teresa Sparks says her relationship with Sturgill was not a romantic one, she said her new romance with Bobby Sparks angered him. "He kept telling Bobby, 'She's still my lady, you can't have her,'" she said.
Despite that, however, Sturgill kept coming by the Sparkses' place on Bradford Street, though not always without incident. Sturgill was arrested on a charge of second-degree trespassing June 3 after refusing to leave the property, Lenoir police said, and Sturgill was seen coming and going from the house frequently in the two weeks prior to his death.
Members of Sturgill's family have said that the Sparkses didn't try to keep Sammy Sturgill away and in fact sought him out in the days before the stabbing. Clarence Sturgill, Sammy's older brother, said in an interview June 25 that Bobby Sparks “kept calling me, saying he wanted to talk to Sammy.”
The three were together for much of June 23, Teresa Sparks said.
"I had found $130 out in the woods," she recalled. "I was with Bobby. I went and bought a half-gallon of liquor and put it in a backpack, and went to buy some toilet paper and deodorant. Sammy had been following us from the woods. I asked him to leave, but he wouldn't."
Teresa Sparks said Bobby Sparks didn't feel threatened but felt sorry for Sturgill and let him in the house.
"Sammy asked if I would cook him pork chops, macaroni and cheese and cornbread," she said. "He also wanted to take a shower. I told him to please leave the house afterward."
Sturgill was still at the house when Teresa Sparks suffered a seizure shortly before 10 p.m. and was whisked away by ambulance to Caldwell Memorial Hospital. But, having already a number of drinks before that, she was combative with the rescue workers, officials said, and was charged with being intoxicated and disruptive. She was sent to jail from the hospital, with her bond set at $500.
What happened after the ambulance took Teresa Sparks away isn't publicly known.
Sturgill's family maintains that the way Sammy Sturgill is portrayed wrongly makes him out to be at fault and is at odds with the person they know. His sister, Dolly Mooney, said she saw his body after the stabbing and noticed that the back of his head was swollen, as if it had been slammed against something. She also saw what appeared to be two cuts on his face. An autopsy is scheduled to be done, but police say the results may not be in for months.
Mooney said the injuries she saw remind her of her brother's injuries after the fight with Davidson in March. "You can see the bruises on his mugshot" taken that day, she said.
Whatever happened was over shortly before 1 a.m., when Bobby Sparks was knocking on neighbors' doors, asking them to call the police because he had killed Sturgill, who officers found in a pool of blood on the ground outside the home, dead from a stab wound.
Police retrieved two knives from the murder scene, including a pocket knife, a search warrant filed with the clerk of court reveals. Sparks is charged with first-degree murder, and is being held in the Caldwell County jail with no bond allowed.
Teresa Sparks remained in jail from the night of the incident until last Monday because she had no money to post bond.
Though she wasn't at home when the stabbing happened, Teresa Sparks feels certain what led to it. "My husband was provoked," she said.
"I just want Bobby to have a fair trial." she said. "He should not be in jail."
Now, with her longtime "running partner" dead and her husband in jail, she is on her own. She has been staying most often in a little clearing at the top of a wooded knoll behind a commercial area. She tries to sleep off the misery of what happened in June, when she had a roof over her head and a husband to love.