Cold Justice S1: E5 – October 1, 2013
The 1998 death of Eric Baxter in Dickson, Tennessee, is investigated. On August 20, 1998, Eric’s mother arrived home to find her son lying on the hallway floor with multiple gunshot wounds to the head and chest. The house is located outside of town by several miles.
Investigators believe the killer had purposefully driven out to the location and, the evidence indicated, planned a sneak attack on the home. Based on the evidence, it appeared that the killer or killers were doing surveillance on the house from the back yard. It is also believed that Eric’s mother would have also been a victim had she been home that night.
The trial for Thomas Wortham is scheduled to begin Feb. 21, 2017. Wortham, who was Baxter’s former business acquaintance, and Wortham’s half-brother Wallace Brasel were charged.
News Release: October 19, 2015 – Ex-Hickman County detective charged with 1998 murder of Eric Baxter
A former Hickman County Sheriff’s Office detective was arrested Friday for the murder of a Dickson man more than 17 years ago. 46-year-old Thomas Lee “Tommy” Wortham of Bon Aqua was indicted last week on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder for the Aug. 20, 1998, shooting death of 32-year-old Eric Baxter in his Jones Creek Road home.
According to a statement from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the grand jury returned the indictments Tuesday and TBI agents and officers of the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office arrested Wortham Friday afternoon. Wortham had leased the Tice’s Springs Market from the Baxter family’s West Meade Corp. 1994-96 and attempted to purchase the Highway 48 South store, but Baxter and his mother, Joy Marsh, rejected his offer after he missed a deadline in the lease contract.
Wortham sued West Meade Corp. but lost and two months before the shooting an appeals court upheld the decision. Baxter was general manager and secretary-treasurer and Marsh was president of the family company, which owned several convenience stores in Dickson County. Marsh told investigators she talked to her son as she was returning from out of town the night of Aug. 20, 1998. About an hour later she discovered his body in a hallway of their home on Jones Creek Road in Dickson.
An autopsy revealed Baxter had suffered 6-8 gunshot wounds to his head, chest and hand from a .38-caliber handgun.
In December, investigators exhumed the grave of Wortham’s father in Hickman County after receiving information that a gun believed to have been the murder weapon was concealed in the casket. Authorities have said no gun or other evidence was found. But Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe says new evidence has been uncovered since the Baxter murder was featured in an October 2013 episode of the TNT program “Cold Justice.” The former prosecutor and investigator who host the cold case program concluded that circumstantial evidence pointed to Wortham as the prime suspect. While no DNA or direct evidence linking Wortham to the crime scene in the Jones Creek Road home was discovered, the show hosts claimed a long list of circumstantial evidence points at Wortham, including apparently catching him in a lie about ever owning a .38-caliber revolver.
Not mentioned on the program was the fact that investigators attempted to obtain ballistics evidence that could match the gun used to kill Baxter, but a tree that Wortham and his former wife Scarlett allegedly had used for target practice at their home disappeared before police could search it for bullets.
Former District Attorney Dan Alsobrooks said evidence was presented to a Dickson County grand jury in August 2013 after the show was taped, but the jurors declined to take any action at that time. Bledsoe and other investigators connected to the case would not elaborate on what evidence has been discovered since the program aired, but it apparently was enough to convince a new grand jury to return last week’s indictments. Wortham is being held in the Dickson County Jail on $1,500,000 bond with an appearance in Dickson Municipal Court scheduled for Nov. 9.
Published: Tenneseean – 8:04 a.m. CT March 24, 2017: Wortham, Brasel free on plea bargain in murder case
Published: 5:59 p.m. CT Dec. 18, 2014: Gravesite exhumed in connection to Dickson murder case
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