published Monday, May 26th, 2014

Venue still sought in Franklin County slaying

Investigators are still working to establish where a 46-year-old woman found dead in the passenger seat of a Winchester, Tenn., man's car was killed.

Franklin County authorities say Morrison, Tenn., resident Bridgette Haley died of blunt-force trauma to her head and upper body, but suspect Robert Troy Whipple, 47, has not been charged with her slaying because the site where that took place has not yet been identified.

"There haven't been any charges of homicide filed yet," Sheriff Tim Fuller said Friday. He said the TBI is leading the investigation since a Franklin County deputy was injured in a confrontation with Whipple.

TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said Friday there were no new details in the case that could be released.

So far Whipple is charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest, evading law enforcement, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of drugs, sheriff's office spokesman Sgt. Chris Guess said.

Haley's battered 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 April 27.

Whipple ran, but Sgt. Milton Binkley kept pace until Whipple turned around with a hunting knife in his 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 backup got to the scene just east of Estill Springs. After the officers got Whipple into custody, they found Haley's body in the car.

12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor said state law addresses venue for jurisdiction in prosecution of homicide cases.

"In homicide cases, the rule normally is that venue lies in the county where the body is found, unless there is proof to the contrary that the actual homicide occurred somewhere else," Taylor said. "That is what investigators are trying to establish."

If there's proof the slaying happened in a county other than Franklin, venue would lie there, otherwise the case will be prosecuted in Franklin County, he said.

Taylor said a 1970s homicide case in Richard City, Tenn., in Marion County was an example of a venue problem that straddled state lines.

The victim in that shooting was standing in the tiny burg of Richard City, a community between South Pittsburg, Tenn., and the Alabama state line, while the shooter was standing in Jackson County, Ala.

"We came to the conclusion that the venue lay where the man fell in Tennessee," Taylor said.

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

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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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