Aaron Dean Lawson, 32, is a suspect in the shooting deaths of Charles and Deborah Phillips in northern Bradley County. He has been indicted on two first-degree murder charges in Bradley County.
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Prosecutors put a neighbor and her sister on the stand this morning and reviewed TBI gun and shell casing evidence in the double-homicide trial of Aaron Dean Lawson in Bradley County.
Lawson is accused of two counts of first-degree murder and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon in the April 19, 2011, shooting deaths of Eddie and Debbie Phillips at their home near Charleston, Tenn.
The Phillips couple's next door neighbor and that neighbor's sister testified that they saw a “car” leaving the Phillips home “very fast” just after they heard what they later learned were gunshots.
Marilyn Grissom, the neighbor, said she only “thought” she saw a “small, white car” and clarified that she calls all vehicles “cars,” and didn't specifically mean a passenger car.
Grissom testified that she believed the vehicle she saw backed out of the driveway “very fast” and sped away but could not say whether it was a passengter car or an SUV and she only got an impression that it was white.
She said she “wasn't sure” the vehicle was white.
Her sister, Jeanine Redman, gave similar testimony.
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation gun analysis expert, special agent Kevin Warner, testified that the metal rod submitted as evidence that was taken from Lawson's vehicle matched the same type of weapon that a magazine found at Lawson's parent's home following the shooting would fit. That weapon was identified as either a Taurus model PT 92 or PT 99 9-mm pistol.
Warner testified that the metal rod — a recoil spring guide rod — was specific to those two Taurus models. The rod was found in the floorboard of Lawson's 1997 maroon and tan 1997 Ford Explorer, according to earlier testimony.
He also testified that the shell casings found near the Phillips' bodies were all fired from the same weapon. That weapon has never been found. Only the metal rod and a magazine to a Taurus 9 mm pistol were submitted as evidence.
In later testimony from Bradley County Sheriff's Office investigators, exhibits were submitted regarding Lawson's cell phone, which had been found dismantled, as well as evidence that his cell phone was not successfully tracked following the shootings.
Other testimony placed the Phillps couple at the O'Charley's restaurant in Cleveland, Tenn., until around 7:30 p.m. on the day of the shootings and then at the Fish Creek Market in Charleston where they purchased gas and a 12-pack of beer at 8:19 p.m.
The last evidence submitted before Judge Carroll Ross recessed the trial for lunch was a record of an AT&T cell phone call from Lawson's phone to his father at 8:28 p.m. that same day.
Testimony about the autopsy is expected after the trial resumes this afternoon.
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 ...