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On Thursday, November 24, 2016, Joel and Lisa Guy gathered in their home in Knoxville, Tennessee for what would be their last holiday celebration in their family home with some of their children and grandchildren.
The Guys had sold the house and were retiring and moving to a homestead in east Tennessee. By all accounts it was a wonderful family celebration. Joel, 61, and Lisa, 55, had been happily married for 31 years. They especially enjoyed spending time with their six grandchildren.
The joy of that holiday gathering was soon shattered for the Guy family.
Four days later, co-workers were worried when Lisa Guy hadn’t shown up for her retirement party at Jacob’s Engineering. She wasn't answering her home telephone or her cell phone, so they reached out to the Knoxville County Sheriff’s Department.
Detective Stephen Ballard went to the Guys’ home to conduct a welfare check. He knocked on the front door and rang the doorbell but never got a response. He went around to the back of the house, but the fence was locked. Ballard notified dispatch that he did not get a response.
When co-workers were still unable to reach Lisa, they reached out to the sheriff’s office for the second time about an hour later.
“It’s odd to me when somebody has a planned event they don’t show up for it, especially a hallmark event like you’re retiring,” Detective Jeremy McCord told Oxygen series "Homicide for the Holidays." “That would cause any reasonable person alarm.”
Ballard once again headed to the Guys’ home, but this time he was joined by McCord. Looking through a window, they could see bags of groceries in the foyer, which included beer and sandwich meats — items that you would typically place in the refrigerator, McCord said. There were no signs of forced entry and the cars parked outside the home were registered to Joel and Lisa.
The officers found an unlocked vehicle with a garage door opener inside, and used it to enter the home. As soon as they went in, they were hit with an intense heat: The stove was on. There was a strange chemical odor that was overbearing.
McCord said he knew immediately that something was wrong.
As they headed up the stairs they saw large amounts of blood, and the scene only became more gruesome. They found two severed hands lying on the floor in what appeared to be a prayer position.
The pair also located two large blue tubs filled with chemicals and human remains — which they determined were Joel and Lisa.
The veteran officers were shocked and deeply disturbed by the crime scene.
“It’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life,” Ballard said. “You’ll never forget it.”
They called for more backup and canvassed the neighborhood, trying to determine if the Guys owed money or if there were domestic issues.
No one in the neighborhood reported anything out of the ordinary, so detectives turned to the family to answer their questions. They reached out to the Guys’ daughter Michelle, who also lived in Knoxville. Michelle told the officers that she would inform her brother and sisters about the deaths and agreed to provide photos of everyone at the Thanksgiving dinner.
The forensics team arrived at the house to continue the investigation, and were greeted by the intense heat and chemical odor. Every thermostat in the house was set at the highest level, and there were space heaters throughout the home as well.
Intense heat accelerates decomposition and will make DNA disappear and fingerprints harder to read.
They also noticed a pile of clothes at the top of the stairs: several shirts, jeans, underwear, and a bra that had been cut with a pair of scissors.
There were other strange things in the home: Workout equipment was overturned. There were knife marks in the futon, and blood was in the hallway and bedroom. They also found receipts dated after Thanksgiving in the upstairs bathroom. There were two receipts from Walmart that both were dated on the November 26 — one was from noon and another from 3 p.m. One of the receipts listed peroxide.
Investigators headed to Walmart and asked to pull surveillance footage. They saw Lisa Guy had arrived at the store and purchased the items located in the foyer of her home. She was also seen on the footage leaving Walmart with those items, which gave police a time frame for when the attacks occurred.
They concluded that Lisa Guy placed the items in the foyer and, at some point, was lured upstairs where she was murdered. They believed Joel was in the workout room when he was killed.
Police combed through more surveillance footage at Walmart for clues about the second receipt. They saw the couple's 28-year-old son, Joel Guy Jr., on the Walmart surveillance tape. He had visible wounds on his hands and purchased items that would treat those wounds including Band-Aids, peroxide, and alcohol.
They were surprised to see the younger Guy on the footage because everyone assumed he had returned to his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They began to wonder if Joel Guy Jr. played a role in the murders.
As detectives headed to Baton Rouge to question Guy Jr., the forensics team made a shocking discovery as they were cataloguing the evidence found on the crime scene.They found a backpack with a manifesto detailing plans for the murders.
Investigators were able to determine it belonged to Guy Jr. because they also found medical books and a syllabus for a class he was taking. They also found notes about what he would inherit when his parents died. Police become even more alarmed when they discovered that he determined he would get more money if one of his siblings died.
Baton Rouge authorities were notified to arrest Guy Jr. and he was taken into custody. They later learned Guy Jr. knew his parents planned to cut him off financially. A family friend said he had never worked a day in his life.
“He knew why we were there, and he knew he was caught,” McCord said of the arrest.
Police found the same scene at his home in Baton Rouge that they discovered in Knoxville, minus the human remains. Instead, they found a dog bone in a blue tub of chemicals. Authorities surmised he was trying to see how long it would take for the bone to disintegrate.
The case headed to trial in September 2020. Joel Guy Jr., was convicted of two counts of premeditated murder and abuse of a corpse and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
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