published Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, updated Aug. 15th, 2012 at 9:19 a.m.

New evidence helps Franklin County slaying probe

  • photo
    Erika Megan Sharpton, 24, of Tullahoma, Tenn., was killed around July 2 and her body was found burning off of Awalt Road by a paassing motorist in Franklin County, Tenn.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Evidence discovered Friday by police dogs could be one of the few breaks in the murder probe into the July slaying of a 24-year-old Tullahoma, Tenn., nursing student, investigators say.

Sgt. Chris Guess, spokesman for the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, said the dogs discovered "interesting evidence" in the case of Erika Megan Sharpton while canvassing an area in the northern part of the county.

Guess said Sharpton had suffered blunt force trauma to her head before her body was set on fire off the side of Awalt Road near the bridge over Tims Ford Lake.

Guess said he couldn't discuss details about the newfound evidence beyond the fact that it was "productive."

"Anything these guys find in the course of a search like that they can tie back to the case, it's helpful, whatever it is," he said. "The more information you have the better off you are."

While searching for suspects, "we've eliminated a lot of people," Guess said. "There are some folks who warrant a little closer look than others."

Sharpton's still-burning body was found about 1:18 a.m. CDT July 2 by a passing motorist who had turned around after spotting what was first thought to be a grass fire.

Sharpton's 1995 Ford Mustang was discovered on Three Forks Bridge Road in Bedford County, the same day the victim's body was found about 15 to 20 miles away. Authorities said those two sites are still of interest in the investigation.

Authorities said an examination of the car by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation didn't turn up anything "definitive."

Mike Taylor, 12th Judicial District attorney general, said the investigation is making progress.

"It could be that if evidence comes forward, there could be a warrant or it could be taken straight to the Franklin County grand jury," Taylor said.

Authorities ask anyone with information related to the investigation to call the Franklin County Sheriff's Office at 931-967-2331 or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-824-3463.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at www.facebook.com/benbenton1 or follow him at twitter.com/BenBenton on Twitter.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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