MANCHESTER, Tenn. — A chance meeting led to a grisly slaying in a pastoral Coffee County setting over the weekend, and a 37-year-old man is behind bars after confessing to eating parts of his victim.
Authorities there have charged Gregory Scott Hale with murder and abusing the corpse of a Bledsoe County woman whom he admitted to killing and dismembering.
Hale is being held on a $1.5 million bond on charges of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in the death of Lisa Marie Hyder, 36, of Pikeville, Tenn., according to Sheriff Steve Graves.
Hale's legal counsel was assigned from the public defender's office in Tullahoma. Officials there declined to comment this early in the investigation.
Graves said officers armed with a search warrant on Sunday found Hale asleep on the couch at a home east of the Manchester city limits on 750 Pete Sain Road. The scene is in the Summitville community, a quiet rural area of the county where the crime scene is surrounded by farmland and rolling hills, and the home where the killing happened belongs to Hale's parents, a retirement-aged couple the sheriff described as "good people."
Residents in the Summitville community didn't want to talk about the slaying on Tuesday. They could only solemnly shake their heads in disbelief.
Sheriff's Office Capt. Frank Watkins said Hale and Hyder met each other sometime over the weekend, probably Friday or Saturday, at a local business.
"Best we can tell, it was a random meeting, and the best we can tell so far is that they had no connection until that day," Watkins said. Hyder had been staying with some friends in the Manchester area for the past couple of weeks.
The pair left the business where they met and went to the house on Pete Sain Road.
"They were sitting around the fire talking and that's when the incident occurred," Watkins said. "He didn't say what set him off or what caused it."
Hale didn't mention using a weapon, and officers didn't find one at the scene. The killing happened outside Hale's house.
But other items at the scene apparently were used to dismember Hyder's body and have been sent to a TBI crime lab for testing, Watkins said.
Authorities first learned something was wrong after an acquaintance of Hale's contacted them.
Watkins said Hale tried to get the acquaintance to help him dispose of a body and the man "flat refused," Watkins said.
The acquaintance told authorities he thought Hale was joking at first "but he said something about it jumped out at him," Watkins said. The man's quick report just as quickly landed Hale behind bars and led officers to the shocking discovery.
Affidavits filed in Coffee County General Sessions Court describe the scene in grisly detail.
"After murdering the victim, [Hale] beheaded her and cut off her hands, placing them in another bucket, and buried the victim's torso in a burn pile at the residence," the affidavits state. "[Hale] also admitted to eating part of the victim after murdering her."
Graves said Hale's admission of consuming parts of his victim is not reflected in the criminal charges, but simply is part of Hale's statement to police.
Graves also said Hale gave investigators little insight into a motive for the killing.
Hale's criminal history lacks much violence, aside from a domestic violence charge lodged against him in November 2001. His background contains charges of simple possession, driving on a revoked or suspended license, possession of drug paraphernalia and several arrests for violation of probation and failure to appear in court, according to Coffee County Sheriff's Office records. There are no indications whether Hale was convicted of those charges.
Graves said Hyder's purse and cell phone were found in a trash bin at a county refuse station. The bin was taken to Franklin County to be opened so officers could sift through the debris for evidence.
Hale was arraigned on the charges Monday and faces his next date in court on June 16, according to court officials.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569.
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 ...