THE RUDE AWAKENING OF ROB WHEDBEE explores the bizarre account of an attempted murder, the events leading up to the crime, and an in-depth post-mortem of the legal fiasco that followed. The book exposes the traumatic impact of the crime on its victims, and the gross inequities often found in the judicial system. It also reveals how a courageous spirit can learn to move forward, rebuild lives, and rediscover trust.
reporters said it was “a sexy story.” Church, greed, adultery, blood, and a
defenseless child with Down Syndrome...all the elements that garnered column
inches and ratings, spurring readership and attracting viewers. The main
players on stage included a geeky journalist who played the organ at church, a
devious narcissist, who had used her wiles and looks to get her way most of her
a well-known and well-liked Knoxville businessman who didn't see it coming.
In the early morning hours of June
8, 1994, a flyspeck of a man, dressed in black, covetous and possessed by
passion, clutched a knife in his gloved hands and stood above another man who
slept quietly in his own bed. In those critical seconds as the knife descended
towards its target, the sleeping man suddenly awoke and somehow deflected the
blade away from his throat. The cold metal sliced through his earlobe and
grazed the side of his neck.
Wide awake and distinctly aware his
life was on the line, Rob Whedbee engaged the black figure in a struggle for
control of the weapon, and called to his wife for help. He worried, Was she dead. His horror grew as he remembered his little girl sleeping down the hall. Was she in danger? As the battle
ensued, the two rolled to the floor, and Rob, the larger man, was able to
maneuver behind his attacker and clutch him by the wrists. Still the man in
black continued to swing the knife, cutting and nicking the man he had planned
to kill. As Rob's blood freely flowed, the knife grew slick and his hand slid down upon the blade severing an artery in his hand. He could not get control of the elusive weapon.
When Rob's wife Lisa finally
appeared in the doorway to their bedroom, wielding an aluminum softball bat, he
felt a moment of relief. He called to her again for help, yet she stood there,
silent and ghostly in the dim light of the hallway. His brief sense of relief
quickly dissipated as the man he held shouted to her, “You've got to do it. Do
it now!” Although stunned by disbelief by what he was hearing, Rob quickly understood the betrayal at hand. He also knew
that voice and the black figure was no longer a stranger to him.
he was on his own and his “flight” instinct kicked in. Throwing his attacker
against the wall, he fled from the room, jerking the bat from his wife's hands
as he headed down the hall to the garage door. Behind him he could hear someone
running in pursuit. The sound of shattering glass echoed in the hallway, as
pictures fell from the wall. Rob's path was clearly marked by the trail of
blood he left in his wake
Out the kitchen door into the garage, Rob hit the door opener and the overhead light
flashed on. He turned towards the door he had just passed through and raised
the bat in a defensive stance.Seconds
later, the man in black came out, clutching the knife with deadly intent.
Despite the stocking mask he wore, his features were clear in the light, and
Rob stared into the eyes of a man he had known for more than ten years. It was
he prepared to swing the bat at him, the bat slipped from Rob's blood covered
hands, but he was able to quickly recover it.Frazier stood there for a moment, weighing his options and analyzing his
odds, and realizing he probably wasn't a match against the bat, turned and ran
back into the house, locking the door behind him. With no phone or access to
his home, Rob began to batter on his gutters,shouting for his neighbor. “Bill Shinn! Bill Shinn, Help!”
quiet of early morning was soon interrupted by howling sirens as patrol cars
pulled into the neighborhood and began to line up along the street where the
Whedbees lived. Knox County deputies swarmed the area, and after talking with
Rob, began a search of the crime scene and the woods behind the house
Whedbee finally came outside, still dressed in a skimpy nightie, and approached
her husband. “Oh Rob, you're hurt. Let me help you,” she said in wide-eyed
innocence, but Rob wasn't having it. “Get away from me,” he told her. “I know
what has happened here.”
questioned by investigators, Lisa offered up numerous versions of the night's
event, repeatedly denying her involvement. She expressed horror at what had
happened and concern for her husband. She begged the officers to let her talk
with Rob. Detective Dan Stewart was tenacious in his interview of Mrs. Whedbee,
pointing out one contradiction after another. Worn down, she finally admitted
to her affair with Michael Frazier. Charged with attempted murder, and
conspiracy to commit murder, Lisa Outlaw Whedbee was unceremoniously cuffed and
carried off to the county jail
The morning light revealed more
aspects of the odd and intricate tale. Lisa Whedbee and her lover had carefully
.planned the demise of her husband.The
case was immediately dubbed “The Tennessee Love Triangle,” and the minute it
hit the AP wire, the media descended upon the peaceful, Tennessee city of
Knoxville. CNN, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times,
and People magazine were just a few of the news outlets vying for interviews
with almost anyone who might have a connection to the story
Even when the O.J. Simpson case hit
the news five days later, media interest in the attempted murder of a respected
Knoxville business man remained high. Tabloid news shows saw a good story and
before long the cameras were rolling for segments on A Current Affair, Hard
Copy, Dateline, City Confidential, and Snapped. For the first time in Tennessee legal history, the doors of justice swung open for court TV, and legal pundits lined up to provide commentary about the convoluted proceedings.
It's been almost 20 years since that night,
but native Knoxvillians remember the story. A segment on ID's Who the Bleep was just aired, triggering massive response from viewers, and the episodes on City
Confidential and Oxygen's Snapped are still broadcast frequently,
and the showings always elicit a flurry of emails from across the country, and
even some from Europe, all expressing empathy for the man who almost lost his
life that night and for the innocent children who were forever abandoned by a
selfish woman who did not deserve to be called a mother.
The forthcoming book, tentatively
titled Rude Awakening, explores the events leading up to the crime, the
bizarre account of the attempted murder, and an in-depth post-mortem of the
legal fiasco that followed. The book exposes the traumatic impact upon Rob Whedbee, his children, and his family, and shows how Rob courageously rebuilt a good life for his family.
Watch Who the
Bleep Did I Marry on Investigation Discovery Channel Saturday, March 1stat 8 pm EST and then join us after the
show on Facebook, at Rude Awakening Rob Whedbee, for a live chat with your
questions and comments about Rob's story and the forthcoming book. 8:45-9:15 p.m.
UPDATE: DATE SET for airing of Investigation Discovery segment on the story of the attempted murder of Rob Whedbee.
Saturday, March 1st Investigation Discovery Channel WHO THE BLEEP DID I MARRY
Stay tuned all you Investigation Discovery addicts. The story behind Rude Awakening will be featured on Investigation Discovery's Who the Bleep Did I Marry, tentatively slated to air Saturday, March 1st. The episode promises to be a good and informative "watch."
The episode will focus on Rob Whedbee's life with a wife who manipulated him, lied to him and about him, and ultimately tried to kill him to reap the benefits of his $1.5 million dollar life insurance policy, and other assets totaling more than $4 million..
A narcissistic sociopath, Rob's wife made life difficult for him for twelve years, with things rapidly disintegrating after the birth of their daughter Brittany who was born with profound Down Syndrome, and suffered numerous traumatic medical issues during her first four years of life, including a congenital heart defect called ventricular septal defect (VSD), and a rare brain defect called MoyaMoya disease.
Lisa Whedbee never could accept her special needs child and frequently neglected her, leaving Brittany's care to Rob and his parents, Joyce and Lloyd Whedbee. Most believe that Brittany's life was also in danger the night of the attempt on Rob's life.
Police Say a Reporter's Story Led to Love and a Murder Attempt
INSURANCE SALESMAN Rob
Whedbee was sleeping peacefully in the bedroom of his two-story brick house
last June 8 when he suddenly awoke to a nightmare. Looming over him stood an
intruder wearing rubber gloves and holding a large butcher knife. A weight
lifter and onetime amateur boxer, Whedbee, 33, fought back furiously as the
figure lashed out with the knife. As he and his assailant tumbled to the floor,
Whedbee yelled to his wife, Lisa, 31, for help. But, he later told the Knox
County, Tenn., sheriffs department, Lisa was not in her usual place beside him
Instead she appeared frozen in the bedroom doorway holding an aluminum baseball
bat. Whedbee shouted for her to turn on the lights and call the police, but she
didn't respond. All he heard, he says, was his attacker shouting, "You've
got to do it! Do it now!" Breaking free, Whedbee fled the room and ran
down a hall and into the garage, with the assailant in close pursuit. There in
his garage, Whedbee finally got a clear look at the knife-wielder before he ran
off. Whedbee was stunned. Treated and released for minor wounds on his ear and
hands, he later told police that the man who had tried to kill him was Michael
Frazier, 32, the features editor for the Oak Ridger, a nearby weekday newspaper
with a circulation of 10,000. Whedbee knew him as a fellow member of the
Trinity United Methodist Church in Knoxville. And more to the point, Frazier
had written a prize-winning article last year about the Whedbee family's
struggle to care for their daughter Brittany, now 4, who had had a series of
strokes as a toddler and also suffers from Down syndrome. Within hours police
arrested Frazier and Lisa, and on Aug. 10 a Knoxville grand jury indicted them
on charges including attempted first-degree murder. In the year that Frazier's
article appeared, investigators believe, the pair became lovers and later
decided to kill Rob Whedbee—perhaps to collect on his reported $1.5 million
Reaction to the attack among friends and acquaintances was one of disbelief.
Frazier, an opera buff who was married to his second wife, Tracy, 31, was a
popular figure at the church. He worked there as a part-time organist to supplement
his income from the Oak Ridger, where he had worked since 1988. Lisa sang in
the volunteer church choir. The other connection between the two was Frazier's
article, "A Mother's Nightmare, A Mother's Dream," which had
portrayed Lisa in highly sympathetic—even heroic—terms. Paul Jones, the music
director at the church, says it never occurred to him that the two might be
having an affair. "Everyone loved Michael," he adds. "He's a
real tight part of this church family." But no one was more aghast at the
accusations than Lisa and Rob's neighbors. "I know a lot of people who
don't appear happy," says Suzanne Shinn, who lives next door in the
suburban neighborhood. "They always did."
Yet appearances, in this case, were misleading. Last April, Lisa Whedbee
consulted attorney Sarah Sheppeard about a divorce. Then, on May 17, she filed
a petition for an order of protection. In it, she alleged that when she
returned home after the appointment with Sheppeard, her husband was angrily
waiting for her. "He told me that my attorney would not ever make it to
court for me because he would kill her first, then he would kill my best friend
for helping me," Lisa claimed in the court document. The following week,
when Whedbee noticed that she had removed her wedding rings, she declared, he
"placed his hands around my neck, choking me (in front of Brittany), and
told me how he would snap my neck." Then he allegedly raped her.
Whedbee, Lisa's husband of 12 years, adamantly denies her accusations. "I
have never been physically or mentally abusive to [my] wife," Whedbee
stated in a divorce action he began hours after the June 8 assault. In fact, in
his testimony at a preliminary hearing, he contended that Lisa threatened him
with domestic violence. Last May 15, according to Whedbee, after one
particularly heated argument over whether their children, Justin, 8, and
Brittany, should be allowed to swim at his parents' house, he encountered his
wife in the basement carrying a loaded shotgun, which she pointed in his
direction. Whedbee ran from the house.
Since the attempted knifing, Lisa has fired off a divorce counterclaim of her
own, citing "irreconcilable differences" and asking for sole custody
of Justin and Brittany. But because Rob obtained a temporary injunction
forbidding any contact with the children, who remain with their father, she has
seen neither one since her arrest. Released that night on $50,000 bail, Lisa
spent nearly two weeks under psychiatric treatment in an undisclosed hospital.
As for her possible defense, lawyers intend to argue that a statement she made
to police on the day of the attack, in which she apparently admitted having an
affair with Frazier and letting him into the house, should be thrown out
because she did not have an attorney present. Like Lisa, Frazier, who is also
free on bail, is expected to plead not guilty at their arraignment on Sept. 9.
Whatever the outcome of the trial, which may not begin until next year, the
June 8 attack has left local residents wondering if anything these days can be
taken for granted. Says the Whedbees' neighbor Bill Shinn: "The Whedbees
were the perfect family. They were the perfect neighbors. And Lisa was the
AMY ESKIND and MARTHA HUME in knoxville
After his first interview with Lisa Whedbee, Dan Stewart
tells the Sheriff, Tim Hutchison, he is sure she is lying and plans to give her
another go.Eventually, Dan
brings Mrs. Whedbee up to the house, where Rob, Paul Hughes, Gerald Weller, and
Dan have congregated in the living room for her second interview. Dan goes
through her Miranda rights again, and Lisa nods her understanding and her
agreement to talk without an attorney present.
This time Lisa’s story has some elements of the truth,
but Dan is convinced she is far from being totally truthful. She does admit she let Frazier in the house, but she had no idea what he planned to do. Based on her statement, Dan feels there is
enough to be arrest and charge her with conspiracy to commit first degree murder.
She began to cry and look at Rob beseechingly as she was
cuffed and put in the back of Gerald Weller’s patrol car. Downtown, Lisa Outlaw Whedbee was
fingerprinted and had her “picture” taken. It was said of her mug shot, “the
very vain, ‘never a hair out of place,’ ‘Glamour Shot girl’ Lisa Whedbee looked
like 30 miles of bad road.”