published Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Justice for Victoria: Arrest made in 1997 Chattanooga killing

ON TV

The "Cold Justice" show featuring this case is expected to air on TNT in late February or early March.

It took 16 years and the help of a TNT television series, "Cold Justice," but police have made an arrest in the 1997 slaying of a Chattanooga woman and mother of two. Victoria Witherspoon Carr, 28, was last seen by her 9- and 4-year-old children when she put them to bed on an August night. Her son woke up and found his mother's pager on the floor and the phone off the hook. She was gone.

For years police suspected that her estranged husband of less than a year, Adolphus Hollingsworth, might be responsible. Carr had accused Hollingsworth of domestic violence, and he was questioned extensively at the time she disappeared.

Neal Pinkston, Hamilton County executive assistant district attorney, declined to say what evidence allowed authorities to make an arrest all these years later. But Hollingsworth has been indicted on a charge of first-degree murder and is in custody in Texas, awaiting extradition to Hamilton County.

Homicide Sgt. Bill Phillips said staff members from "Cold Justice" contacted the Chattanooga Police Department and asked for several cases that it could possibly help with. In return, the show provided expedited lab results that would normally take a year to get back. Cold-case detectives from across the country were also assigned to pitch in and help, Phillips said.

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Carr and Hollingsworth had a history of domestic violence. Police charged Hollingsworth with assault and possession of an unlawful weapon after he allegedly choked Carr in May 1996. In another incident, Carr filed a police report saying he had dragged her by the hair and punched her in the face.

At the time she disappeared, Carr had started a job at the Chattanooga Housing Authority's Harriet Tubman Homes. After a week of work, she never showed up again.

  • photo
    Chattanooga police Sgt. Bill Phillips holds a photo of a woman whose body was found on Billy Goat Hill in East Chattanooga in 1997.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

Meantime, though married to Carr, Hollingsworth apparently was married to another woman as well.

At the time Carr disappeared, Hollingsworth was facing bigamy charges out of Alabama. Carr's family said she did not know Hollingsworth was married when she wed him in November 1996.

When Carr was reported missing, her 1988 Mustang convertible was found in her mother's driveway on Duncan Avenue with brush stuck to the underside and a strong odor of gasoline from the interior, said police. Her keys were found in the grass nearby.

Carr's body was found on June 1, 1999 -- a year and nine months after she was reported missing -- after a dog carried her skull to a yard near Billy Goat Hill.

Forensic pathologists were able to show that Carr died from a stab wound to the neck.

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With new impetus for the case plus investigative and technical help provided by "Cold Justice," Hollingsworth was arrested within two weeks.

He had remarried and was living in Amarillo, Texas.

Carr's mother has since died. She never lived to see her daughter receive justice.

But Carr's children and father, Benjamin Witherspoon, never forgot.

"I'm pleased with the idea that something is being done," Witherspoon said Friday in response to news of the arrest. "We feel like the right thing is about to occur."

"It's good they didn't give up," Phillips said, "because we didn't give up."

Staff writer Alex Harris contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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