published Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Jury works into weekend on trial for 2012 murder

  • photo
    Tony Bigoms, 54, listens during jury selection for his first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse trial in the November 2012 slaying of Dana Wilkes in Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom at the city-county courts building.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Fourteen jurors will be working today, along with a Criminal Court judge, attorneys and court staff.

The sequestered jurors are entering the fifth day of the murder trial of Tony Bigoms, 54, charged in the November 2012 slaying and dismemberment of Dana Wilkes, 48. He also faces an abuse of a corpse charge.

The gruesome condition in which duck hunters discovered Wilkes' body, decapitated and missing her hands along South Chickamauga Creek near the 3700 block of Youngstown Road on Nov. 25, 2012, has drawn extensive local media coverage.

Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman sequestered jurors to avoid any exposure to outside sources or media.

On Friday, jurors heard autopsy details from Hamilton County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Metcalfe as well as continued testimony from Chattanooga Police Department crime scene officers.

Wilkes was reported missing Nov. 10, 2012, after not showing up for work at the Dialysis Clinic Inc. Her green Jeep Grand Cherokee was found with blood splatters on the interior at the Wilcox Boulevard tunnels.

Bigoms was the last person known to have been with Wilkes before her death.

He told police he'd gone with her to Walmart and a gas station but she'd dropped him off at the Family Dollar Store at 5:30 or 6 p.m. Store video footage showed them together at the gas station at 9 p.m.

Bigoms cooperated with police early in the investigation but withheld details when interviewed. His DNA was found on a cigarette butt in Wilkes' Jeep and on a pink bra found discarded near her mutilated body.

In 2006 a jury acquitted Bigoms of kidnapping, rape and murder charges in the strangling death of Dinah Burney. Her body was found dumped alongside Caine Avenue in 2002. Bigoms' DNA was found on the sock around her throat, in her mouth and under her fingernails.

Due to rules to avoid prejudicing a jury, Bigoms' criminal history will not be presented in the trial.

So far the jury has heard from more than 20 prosecution witnesses. Prosecutors Lance Pope and Cameron Williams told Steelman they expect to finish their proof today.

Assistant District Public Defenders Steve Brown and Jane Buffaloe have witnesses scheduled but can choose whether to call them as the trial proceeds.

It's unlikely jurors will work on Sunday. If the case does not conclude today it will resume Monday.

Contact staff writer Todd South at 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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