Local News

Victim of church stabbing 'still fighting,' family says

Posted October 26, 2007 2:29 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2008 4:21 p.m. EDT

— Stabbed multiple times in her face, back and neck, Eve Beasley was able to describe the man who attacked her and a fellow Meals on Wheels employee inside Lakeside Baptist Church on Oct. 18.

Calm, lucid and responsive, she was also able to ask a church secretary to call her children to tell them she loved them.

"She was able to give a full description of the attacker, and that was crucial to the investigation," said Billy Beasley, sitting in a hotel room across the street from Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, where he and his sisters wait to see if their mother will recover from her injuries.

Beasley, 60, hasn't been able to speak since.

The assistant director of the Meals on Wheels program in Rocky Mount and her longtime friend and coworker, Debbie Kornegay, were in the church kitchen preparing food to distribute to local senior citizens. That's when, authorities say, Tommy Lee Holiday, 30, charged at them and stabbed them multiple times.

Kornegay, 58, was pronounced dead at Nash General Hospital.

Beasley was taken to Greenville, where she's been since the attack. Her family says she has made steady progress after multiple surgeries, but she remains in critical condition.

"Her eyes move under her eyelids, so we think she can hear us," Billy Beasley said, "and she knows we're there."

"We're just really thankful that she's still fighting," her older daughter, Macon Fritsch, said. "And I think that she's amazed everybody – with the people who saw what was done to her."

What exactly happened inside the Rocky Mount church that morning isn't clear. Investigators have remained tight-lipped about the case since arresting Holiday a day after the crimes.

"We don't know what happened," Fritsch said. "We know a lot of things, but we don't know what happened in the in-between to make him turn on them."

Police Chief John Manley said it appeared that Holiday was a drifter and that Kornegay apparently had invited him inside to help him find a place to stay. She called several shelters, as well as her daughter, whom she gave a detailed description of Holiday.

"Why she would do that, only God knows. I don't know, but she did that," Manley said the next day.

After the women were stabbed, shortly after 9 a.m., their attacker fled in Kornegay's charcoal gray GMC Yukon. Authorities found it hours later at a retirement community's parking lot a little more than two miles away from the church.

"She was stabbed 10 times in her face, neck stomach, back, throat, sides – 10 times," Billy Beasley said of his mother. "No major organs were hit at all. It's a true miracle."

"We feel pretty certain that he was definitely trying to kill both of them, because where her wounds were – he knew what he was doing," Fritsch said.

Police aggressively searched for a suspect in the hours following the attacks, setting up checkpoints and handing out fliers. Early Friday morning, Oct. 19, an officer picked up Holiday, who matched Beasley's and Kornegay's descriptions of their assailant.

Hours later, Holiday confessed, police say, and was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery, among other counts.

Neither Billy Beasley nor Fritsch want to talk about Holiday, saying only that they hope the legal process can move ahead quickly. They plan to see the case through to the end and support Nash County District Attorney Howard Boney's decision to seek the death penalty.

"I would like to see swift justice done for what happened to my mother," Billy Beasley said, "because it's just unspeakable to do that to somebody's mother who was working at a church to try to help other people."

For now, they are focused on their mother's recovery. Fritsch, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn.; Billy Beasley, from Fuquay-Varina, and their younger sister, Amanda, who lives in Raleigh, have temporarily moved to Greenville to stay at their mother's side.

They start out each day with a prayer meeting in the hospital's intensive care ward. At about 10:30 a.m., they have their first of several visits with their mother. They are only allowed a few minutes at a time.

"It's a hard thing to have to go through, because you can't really do anything but go in there and visit with her and talk to her," Billy Beasley said. "You wish you could go help your mother feel better."

She was recently taken off sedation medication, and doctors hope that within the next couple of days, she'll wake up on her own.

"They think she is going to come around pretty strongly in 10 days or less," Billy Beasley said.

"She is a very strong woman – and a fighter – and we just want her to keep fighting," Fritsch said. "She's still fighting, and she still needs everybody's prayers."