published Thursday, April 10th, 2014

LIVE UPDATES: Tony Bigoms on trial, accused in gruesome death of Dana Wilkes

Accompanied by court officer Tim Higgs, right, defendant Tony Bigoms enters Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Wednesday during the first day of testimony in his murder trial. Bigoms is accused in the 2012 slaying of Dana Wilkes.
Accompanied by court officer Tim Higgs, right, defendant Tony Bigoms enters Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Wednesday during the first day of testimony in his murder trial. Bigoms is accused in the 2012 slaying of Dana Wilkes.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Todd South updates

Robert Boulware answered a call from his grandmother at about noon on Nov. 10, 2012. She said his mother hadn't gone to work that morning and she was worried.

Boulware started calling his mother's mobile phone nearly nonstop and drove to her apartment on Palo Verde Drive. The door was unlocked but she wasn't there. Nothing was missing.

Another call from one of his mother's co-workers led Boulware to her abandoned green Jeep Grand Cherokee at the entrance to the Wilcox Boulevard tunnel.

He opened the door and saw blood dripping from the glove box and dash. He called police.

Initially he thought maybe the blood could be from one of his stepfather's nosebleeds. The man was on dialysis and undergoing chemotherapy.

Boulware posted fliers. He hoped. He waited.

Weeks later duck hunters found the headless, handless body of his mother, 48-year-old Dana Wilkes, near a creek on Youngstown Road.

Boulware told a jury Wednesday about the days after his mother went missing, about her body being found.

Throughout Boulware's testimony, the man accused of killing his mother sat squarely in front of him. Tony Bigoms is on trial for first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

Attorneys culled the 14 jurors from 96 that had been called Tuesday. The process took all day. Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman has sequestered the jurors and plans to have them work Saturday and likely into next week on the case.

Prosecutors have plans to call more than two dozen witnesses. By late afternoon Wednesday they were on witness number eight.

Bigoms was a friend of Wilkes' husband, Tom. Police had talked to Bigoms; he was the last person with Wilkes before she went missing. He first told investigators he'd seen Dana Wilkes on the night of Nov. 9, 2012.

Bigoms said she told him she was going to sell some prescription pills. Tom Wilkes usually did those illegal sales but he was in jail at the time.

In a second interview, Bigoms told police more. He said he'd ridden with Dana Wilkes after she picked him up at the Family Dollar Store.

Bigoms was with her at that time in a Walmart and they called each other while walking out of the store separately. She then gave him a ride home sometime between 5:30 and 6 p.m., Bigoms said.

But video surveillance shows the pair separate in the store at a later time, closer to 8 p.m. And phone records show that Bigoms called Wilkes' phone at 2:30 a.m. the next day.

Once Wilkes' body was found, tests showed that Bigoms' DNA was present on her bra, which had been discarded near the body, and on cigarette butts inside her Jeep.

Prosecutor Cameron Williams argued in opening statements that Bigoms was the last person with Wilkes before her death, he told different stories to police each time he was interviewed and DNA linked him to the crime.

Assistant District Public Defender Jane Buffaloe told jurors they should look closely at the evidence, which she said would show Bigoms is not guilty.

The trial will resume this morning.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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