Country music star Jean Shepard’s granddaughter was murdered by her self-described “Satanist” boyfriend after the 18-year-old girl predicted her own death. Travis Sanders, 21, stabbed Icie Sloan Hawkins to death inside the home of Shepard’s widower, her step-grandfather, Benny Birchfield.
Travis Sanders, 21, reportedly filed his fingernails to look like claws, rarely bathed, and couldn’t hold down a job. Icie Sloan Hawkins’ killer stole a treasured Bible from a friend to scrawl “666” — the mark of the devil — inside the book, according to a Daily Mail report.
During the attack that left Jean Shepard’s granddaughter dead, the knife-wielding Satanist also stabbed the young woman’s step-grandfather. Prior to the violent and fatal attack, Icie reportedly told Travis Sanders she thought he would wind of killing her. Despite being staunchly urged by her friends and loved ones to break up with Sanders, Icie Sloan Hawkins stayed in the relationship.
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) December 22, 2016
Travis Sanders used a 10-inch Bowie knife to stab his girlfriend to death last Saturday morning. Her step-grandfather shot and killed Sanders, but he is not facing any charges in connection to the shooting.
According to Jordan Hammer, a close friend of Icie Sloan Hawkins’ since junior high, the victim wanted to break up with Travis Sanders for quite a while. About three weeks ago, the young woman reportedly tried to end the tumultuous relationship.
“But he did the typical manipulative thing telling her they were perfect for each other and persuaded her not to,” Hammer said. “She even told him: ‘I’m scared you are going to kill me,’ but he said he would never hurt her. She showed me the message she sent him. She knew what he was capable of.”
According to both Hammer and the victim’s family, Sanders took Icie’s cell phone away from her several days before the brutal slaying and snapped it in half.
Icie Sloan Hawkins and Travis Sanders had known each other for several years. Prior to dating Sanders, Sloan Hawkins had dated his best friend, Sasha Kazanofski. Travis Sanders began dating the young woman shortly after she and his best friend had broken off their relationship.
Icie’s mother, Velvet Sloan, said her daughter and the man who killed her began dating in April. Sloan further contends it was obvious Sanders was a lot more into the relationship that her daughter.
“He seemed to be obsessed with her,” Velvet Sloan said. “She had told me he loved her – he absolutely adored her – but she didn’t feel the same way about him. It had gotten stronger for her, they developed a close bond. She never told me she loved him, but she did start calling him her boyfriend.”
Velvet Sloan never approved of Travis Sanders and said he had nothing going for him in life. The victim’s mother said she never “felt comfortable” with him around and noted her fiance also took a quick disliking to the young man.
Over the course of the summer, the mother and daughter were spending some time together in the family pool when Icie confided her boyfriend was a Satanist and “into devil worship.”
‘I said, “Icie, come on, that’s not a man you would want to be involved with.’ But she said he has some problems and she was just trying to help him,” Velvet Sloan stated. “She said people need other people to help them through things. I told her guys like that will end up killing you and she just looked at me and said: ‘I know, I know.'”
According to the grieving mother, on a different occasion when she and her daughter went swimming together, she saw a knife fall out of Icie’s shorts as she changed into her swimsuit. When Velvet Sloan asked her daughter why she was carrying a knife, Icie reportedly said it was to protect herself just in case “someone” tried to “jump her.”
Bob Adams, Velvet Sloan’s fiance, said he kicked Travis Sanders out of the home the couple shares in Hendersonville, Tennessee at least twice. He also maintains Icie wasn’t telling the truth about the weapon.
“They were into knife play,” Adams said.
Adams said Travis Sanders was extremely disrespectful when inside their home and did not take being asked to leave lightly, especially the second time.
“He made it clear that this wasn’t the end of it. He gave me that look – just dead eyes with that little smile that said ‘I’m going to get you,'” Adams continued. “He was a punk. He would never look you in the eye, it’s not like he was a kid who didn’t know better; he was a young man. I believe he was a natural born killer.”
The mother’s fiance described Icie Sloan Hawkins as a sweet girl who was “spiritual, pretty, and smart.” Her future step-father concluded Sanders was “dating up” significantly.
Jean Shepard’s husband stabbed, granddaughter dead in an incident at the late country star’s home https://t.co/FSJU5yaucv
— billboard (@billboard) December 22, 2016
Icie Sloan Hawkins was the first girl who had ever really given Travis Sanders any attention, according to Adams. This fact, coupled with all of the rejection the killer had allegedly experienced in his life, caused him to become “obsessed” with Jean Shepard’s granddaughter.
Just several months ago, Icie moved into the home where her country star grandmother and her third husband lived in Hendersonville. Jean Shepard died in September at the age of 82 from Parkinson’s disease. The young woman had been helping care for her ailing grandmother and assisting Birchfield around the house.
“She was 18 so she wanted to have a little freedom. She was living in the finished basement” of her grandparents’ home, Velvet Sloan noted.
It was in that very basement where both Travis Sanders and Icie Sloan Hawkins died violently.
Benny Birchfield, 70, arrived home around 3 a.m. on Saturday when he heard noises coming from the basement apartment. After walking down the steps, he saw Icie lying upon bloody sheets on the bed and severely injured. Travis Sanders reportedly lunged at him and cut his face and neck as he rushed down the steps to reach his granddaughter.
Birchfield pulled out his.38 caliber revolver and shot Sanders five times, killing him almost instantly. Icie Sloan Hawkins died inside the ambulance on the way to a local hospital.
“The detectives told us her fatal wound was on her left upper arm and he severed her artery after slitting her throat and there were multiple slashes to her face,” the victim’s mother said. “The funeral director wouldn’t allow an open casket the wounds were so bad. It was a prolonged attack.”
“We pretty much have the who, what, when and where, but we don’t have the why,” Hendersonville police detective Jim Vaughn said during an interview with the Tennessean.
Velvet Sloan thinks Travis Sanders killed her daughter either because she was breaking up with him or because he discovered her grandfather had given her some money for Christmas and he was trying to steal it to go buy drugs.
Sloan is planning to start a foundation in her daughter’s name to help other victims of “teen-on-teen” violence. Velvet said she wants to help create a domestic violence network geared specifically to teenagers and to help teach young people “certain behaviors are unacceptable.’
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