Crime

Nation Hahn recounts wife’s death at Jonathan Broyhill murder trial

Nation Hahn describes for the jury the attack on his wife, Jamie, in their North Raleigh home in 2013. Hahn testified that he came downstairs to see Jonathan Broyhill standing over Jamie Hahn with a knife. He said he tried to take the weapon from Broyhill.
Nation Hahn describes for the jury the attack on his wife, Jamie, in their North Raleigh home in 2013. Hahn testified that he came downstairs to see Jonathan Broyhill standing over Jamie Hahn with a knife. He said he tried to take the weapon from Broyhill. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Jamie Hahn turned to her husband, Nation, on April 9, two years ago, sobbing tenderly and pondering the future.

The Hahns were on the cusp of celebrating their fourth anniversary when Jonathan Broyhill, who had been the best man at their wedding, told them he might have pancreatic cancer. It was a fabricated health scare, but it plunged the couple into despair.

“Jamie was real torn up,” Nation Hahn recalled Tuesday from the witness stand at Broyhill’s murder trial. “As was I.”

The two knew that pancreatic cancer often brings a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early.

“It’s like a killer,” Hahn testified. “It’s like a death sentence.”

He took a deep breath and tried to tamp down his emotions before recounting that conversation with his wife – one he said he will never forget.

“I remember through her tears she turned to me and said, ‘Don’t you think we should have a baby?’”

Jamie Hahn told her husband that she wanted any child they had to know all of their friends, and she worried Broyhill might not be around for long.

Neither had an idea whose life was about to be cut short.

Just 15 days after that conversation, Jamie Hahn died from multiple stab wounds at age 29.

Broyhill is accused of first-degree murder for her death and for attempting to kill Nation Hahn.

Jurors, for the first time during the trial, got to hear Tuesday from one of the three people inside the Hahns’ North Raleigh home during the knife attack.

Nation Hahn, the 28-year-old widower, provoked sniffling and tears in a courtroom filled with family and friends.

After describing what he thought would be an ordinary day, he recounted hearing his wife scream while he was upstairs, changing into gym clothes.

She screamed his name, then Broyhill’s. One, then the other.

‘He’s trying to kill me’

Initially, he thought something health-related had happened to Broyhill.

“I was halfway down the stairs, when she screamed out: ‘He’s trying to kill me,’” Hahn recalled.

Nation came upon the two in the kitchen, he testified, and Broyhill was standing over Jamie wielding a knife.

Then Broyhill started coming for him, Hahn said. He asked Broyhill frantically what he was doing while urging his wife, just as excitedly, to get up and run. “Get out of the house,” he told her.

Hahn said he tried to grab the knife from Broyhill, still not certain what had transpired. Hahn fled outside, calling for help and looking for his wife.

“As I ran, I saw him going down the hallway,” Hahn said, pointing to a floor-plan diagram of the house he never returned to after the violence.

Jamie Hahn had collapsed in a neighbor’s yard. Her husband recalled seeing her clutching her side. “She had a big wound,” he said, “or something that looked like a big wound.”

His hands had been slashed, too, cut so severely that he needed surgery and rehabilitation therapy.

But in the immediate aftermath, it was unclear to him what had happened to him or his wife.

Hahn said Tuesday that he did not know at the time about the $45,000 missing from former U.S. Congressman Brad Miller’s campaign account. He said he knew his wife had questions about $500 or $600 associated with the account and that she and Broyhill were planning to go over the bank books associated with that project.

Hahn recalled the sensation of extreme loneliness that descended upon him later that night when he was in a hospital room after getting his hands stitched and Jamie Hahn was in surgery.

Hahn said he was hoping and believing that his wife would make it through, not knowing that she had been stabbed nearly a dozen times, an artery severed and her liver severely lacerated.

As Hahn recounted his memories Tuesday, Broyhill sat by his defense team, rocking back and forth, his head cast downward.

The defense team does not dispute that Broyhill held the knife that killed Jamie Hahn. But they argue that their client went to the Hahns that afternoon intent on killing no one but himself.

Cross-examination

Late Tuesday afternoon, Joseph Arbour, one of two Wake County public defenders representing Broyhill, began his cross-examination of Nation Hahn. He asked about the friendship that developed between Broyhill and Hahn while they were in Lenoir and posed many questions about whether Broyhill would have suffered negative feedback in that former furniture town in Western North Carolina for being gay.

In their church, in the politically conservative town, Arbour suggested, homosexuality was “frowned upon” by some.

“I imagine that would pose some difficulties,” Hahn said, adding that neither he nor his wife nor most of their friends in Raleigh were troubled when Broyhill told them he was gay.

In their opening statements, the defense team said that Broyhill was crumbling under the weight of the many secrets he had harbored.

It was unclear before the trial broke for the day Tuesday where Arbour was going with numerous questions about Broyhill’s sexuality.

Nation Hahn is expected to return to the witness stand Wednesday for more questions from the defense.

Earlier on Tuesday, jurors heard about the knife Broyhill purchased at a Harris Teeter store and an Amtrak ticket from Raleigh to Charlotte he had originally booked for the morning of the attack, then rescheduled for the next day.

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