published Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Franklin County Sheriff's Office says woman beaten to death

The woman whose body was found in the passenger seat of a car that Franklin County, Tenn., authorities chased down Sunday was killed by blunt-force trauma to the head and upper body, authorities said.

Winchester, Tenn., resident Robert Troy Whipple, 47, the man charged in the slaying, killed 46-year-old Morrison, Tenn., resident Bridgette Haley without using a weapon, Franklin County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Chris Guess said.

Guess said charges related to the homicide are pending because investigators and agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are still trying to establish where the slaying happened.

Haley's body was found in the passenger's seat of Whipple's 2001 Ford Taurus after he led Franklin County authorities on a 15-minute chase that ended off of Rahn Drive about 1:10 a.m. CDT on Sunday.

When Whipple fled on foot, Sgt. Milton Binkley kept pace until Whipple turned around with a hunting knife in hand and sliced at the officer, cutting Binkley's hand and right wrist, Guess said.

Binkley "bumped" Whipple into a dry creek bed where he was trapped until other officers got to the scene just east of Estill Springs.

When the officers took Whipple into custody, they found Haley's body in the car, Guess said.

TBI spokesman Josh Devine said Wednesday that little information is available.

"We're continuing to investigate the case but don't have any new details to offer at this early stage," Devine said.

Guess said investigators are doing interviews and reviewing convenience store surveillance tapes to see where Whipple went.

"It's slow developing, because there's a lot of surveillance tapes from convenience stores from multiple counties -- five different counties," he said.

Guess said that there are no other suspects so far, but that prospective witnesses are being sought out. As investigators work to establish venue for the killing they'll probably discover how Whipple and Haley wound up together, he said.

Funeral services for Haley -- a Cannon County native whose father and stepmother are from Chattanooga, are set this afternoon in Woodbury, Tenn. She had two children and worked as a store clerk at Love's Truck Stop, according to obituary information in the Cannon Courier newspaper.

Whipple, for now charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest, evading law enforcement, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of drugs, remains behind bars on a $1 million bond.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

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 ...

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