In early July of 1997, 18-year-old Stacy Hanna moved to Richmond, Virginia, from Lynchburg to help a friend move house. Once there, Hanna got a job at a bagel shop and decided that she would stay in town. She subsequently moved into a townhouse in the 200 block of South Belmont Avenue with Kelley Ann Tibbs, 19, and Dana Vaughn. Tracy Bitner, 19, – who was Tibbs’ on-and-off girlfriend – was a frequent visitor at the shared home. Two other common guests at the home were Domica Winckler, 18, who lived around the corner, and Stephanie Cull, 18, who lived in Chester.1
Hanna developed a bit of an infatuation with Tibbs and one day told her that Bitner had a new girlfriend and didn’t want to see her any more. “Stacey was kind of obsessed,” said Vaughn. When Tibbs went and spoke to Bitner about what Hanna had told her, she discovered that Hanna had been lying, presumably because she wanted to peruse a relationship with Tibbs. The group of girls decided that they teach Hanna a lesson by beating her up. However, what the attackers referred to as an “ass kicking” quickly escalated with the introduction of box cutters which, ironically, had been shoplifted by Hanna just the previous day.
After an evening of drinking beer on the 27th of July, 1997, Tibbs, Bitner, Winckler and Cull drove Hanna to an isolated popular drinking spot in the county off Cogbill Road near the Chesterfield Airport under the pretence that they were going to a party. Once out of the car, the four shouted: “One, two, three, I love you,” and started to kick and punch Hanna. Things took a dramatic turn for the worse when Winckler lifted up a nearby cinder block and threw it on Hanna’s head, fracturing her skull. As Hanna lay cowering on the ground, a box cutter was introduced and the women took turns in slashing and stabbing her. The women then walked towards the car before deciding to turn back to Hanna – who by now was bruised and bloody – her shoved in the trunk of the car. They did contemplate taking her to the hospital but decided against it. “We gotta get rid of her or she’s gonna rat us out,” the gang cruelly decided.
They drove around for half an hour – briefly stopping once so Winckler could stab Hanna while confined in the trunk because she was getting too loud – before they finally stopped at a logging trail off Nash Road. At this second crime scene, all four women stood over Hanna and spat on her as Winckler stole her watch. Cull then got back into the car as the other three dragged Hanna over to a puddle of mud where they ripped her T-shirt and shorts from her, leaving her in just her underwear. As Hanna lay semi-naked in the mud, she was stabbed and slashed at least 65 times with the box cutter. Two wounds ran 14 inches from her shoulder to her buttocks. At one point during the attack, Hanna said that she wanted to call her mother and tell her that she loved her; the gang denied her this last wish. Bitner then cut Hanna’s throat. The injury opened her windpipe but didn’t cut a major blood vessel. They then left Hanna face down in the murky water, bleeding profusely from the abundance of wounds she had sustained in the brutal attack. Ultimately, her cause of death was a combination of blood loss and drowning.
Almost as soon as the group returned home, they were bragging about the brutal slaying. “I cut her throat and it felt good,” boasted Bitner to Dana Vaughn, the other roommate of Hanna and Tibbs. Vaughn had come along in the car but hadn’t left the car at all throughout the entire ordeal and wasn’t aware of what had happened. Tibbs also bragged that as she slashed Hanna, she screamed: “Give me your heart, bitch, why won’t you die?” The following day, Winckler, Bitner, Tibbs and Cull were apprehended and charged with the murder of Stacy Hanna.
Tibbs admitted to police that she instigated the beating of Hannah and then joined in on the attack after Winckler hit Hanna with a belt. “We were all kind of feeding off each other because when Mica hit her, I was, like, `Yeah,’ you know. And I kicked her. And I hit her twice. And then Tracy was, like, `Yeah,’ you know. We’re just going to kick her around,” Tibbs told Chesterfield Police Detective Rick Mormando. In Winckler’s statement, she told Mormando: “I mean nobody deserved to die, but it was just one of those times.” “One of those times for what?” questioned Mormando. “When somebody had to die,” she responded.2 When asked why they had killed Hanna, Winckler said that they wanted to teach her a lesson because “she has a problem with trying to get everybody to turn against everybody… It was like she was telling sob stories and lies trying to fit in with everybody else.”
Winckler, Bitner, and Tibbs were all sentenced to life imprisonment while Cull was sentenced to just 20 years in prison. Cull received a lesser sentence because the jury found that she was the least culpable of the four and was caught up in the violence that escalated. Cull had claimed that she wasn’t involved in the murder and had acted only as the driver. However, she did confess to slashing Hanna on the thigh and down her back. “I did not want them to kill her,” Cull said.3 During Tibbs’ sentencing phase, her eyes filled with tears as she looked towards Hanna’s mother and said: “I would like to say I’m extremely sorry for what I’ve done. It’s not only your loss, it’s my loss too.”4 Outside the court room, Hanna’s mother addressed Tibbs’ apology: “It’s a joke,” she told reporters. “I don’t think she’s sorry at all for what she did. She could have kept her apology. It don’t mean nothing.. Why is it her loss? It was her decision [to take part in the murder.] I’d like to tell Kelly Tibbs: Have a nice life.”
In 2015, Stephanie Cull was released after serving 18 years of her 20 year sentence; she earned time off with good behavior. Coincidentally, her release date was on the 18th anniversary of the crime.
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, 22 April, 1998 – “Videotape Details Role of Defendant in Slaying”
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, 17 January, 1998 – “Cases’ Nuances May Be Key”
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7 November, 1997 – “Testimony Details Fatal Attack on Teen”
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3 July, 1998 – “Tearful Tibbs Gets Life Term, 20 Years in Slaying”