published Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Person of interest sought in deadly McMinn County shooting

Authorities in McMinn County still haven't made any arrests after a shootout left one man dead Sunday, although they have named a person of interest.

Jason Howard, 36, of County Road 52 near Riceville, Tenn., was pronounced dead at Athens Regional Medical Center about 1:20 p.m. Sunday, not quite an hour after shots were fired at a home on County Road 258, McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said in a news release.

Authorities are looking for Jason Watson, a "person of interest" who apparently has been in a weeks-long dispute with Howard, Guy said.

"The dispute between the two men seems to have been ongoing for several weeks, apparently escalating to this shooting," Guy said.

Officials at the McMinn County Sheriff's Office on Monday said no arrest has been made and Guy said there were no new developments he could discuss.

Watson, 39, lives in a camper behind a home at 165 County Road 258, authorities said. The site is west of U.S. Highway 11 between Athens and Niota, Tenn.

Jennifer Elaine White, 35, of Manilla Road in Englewood, Tenn., called 911 about 12:35 p.m. Sunday, saying that she was driving the wounded Howard from the scene on County Road 258 to Athens Regional Medical Center.

An ambulance met White and Howard in the parking lot of the State Farm insurance office on Congress Parkway, about four miles from the scene. Howard was taken from there to the Athens hospital, where he died, authorities said.

"Ms. White and Mr. Howard had driven to Mr. Watson's residence, and when they arrived several shots were fired, apparently by both men,'" Guy said.

Investigators said Howard appeared to have been shot "several times with a small-caliber handgun," Guy said.

Authorities found a rifle in the car White and Howard were driving, he said.

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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