published Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Investigators still seek leads in death of a 24-year-old nursing student

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    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.

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    This photo shows burned grass near the site on Awalt Road where Erika Megan Sharpton's body was found in Franklin County, Tenn., on July 2.
    Photo by Ben Benton
REWARD FUND

A reward fund for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for the death of Erika Megan Sharpton has been established at American City Bank. To donate, send contributions to the attention of "Michelle" at American City Bank, 340 W. Lincoln St., Tullahoma, TN 37388 or stop by any of the branches in Tullahoma, Manchester or Decherd, Tenn.

Franklin County, Tenn., investigators probing the early July death of a 24-year-old nursing student say they still need information to lead them to a suspect or suspects in the slaying.

Detectives and TBI agents have conducted "more than two dozen" interviews since Erika Megan Sharpton's still-burning body was found by a passing motorist on July 2, Franklin County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Chris Guess said Tuesday. Her body was lying on the side of Awalt Road at the bridge over Tims Ford Lake.

Investigators are awaiting results from an autopsy and an examination of Sharpton's 1995 Ford Mustang performed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Guess said.

Initial autopsy results indicated she was killed by "blunt force trauma" to her head.

"The blunt object could have been one of many objects," Guess said.

TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said the state agency cannot release any details now.

"I can tell you we have evidence that still needs to be processed that may give us a forensic lead," Helm said Tuesday in an email.

Authorities have been tight-lipped about details but early in the investigation, Sharpton's pink purse was found "fairly close to the scene so that helps establish timeline and pattern," Guess said Tuesday. Sharpton's cellphone records are being examined, he said, but he couldn't elaborate.

And authorities also are trying to determine what type of chemical was used to set the woman's body on fire. No combustible items were found at the site, he said.

Franklin County officials said they're especially interested in any sightings of Sharpton's car or other clues between 10:30 p.m. CDT on July 1, and 2 a.m. CDT on July 2, in the area near where the body was found and also in the Three Forks Bridge Road area in Bedford County.

Authorities ask anyone with information related to the investigation to contact 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 423-757-6569 or bbenton@timesfreepress.com. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at www.facebook.com/benbenton1 or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/BenBenton.

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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