Hamilton County judge reduces bond for man in corpse-abuse case

Hamilton County judge reduces bond for man in corpse-abuse case

August 27th, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Tony Bigoms

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A Hamilton County judge reduced the bond for a man accused of killing a woman last year and later mutilating her body by removing her head and hands.

Tony Edward Bigoms Jr., who is charged with first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and violating conditions outlined in a previous conviction of attempted aggravated sexual battery, appeared Monday before Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman.

Steelman lowered Bigoms' $250,000 bond to $40,000.

Steven Brown, the assistant district public defender representing Bigoms, argued that no concrete evidence tied Bigoms to the slaying of 48-year-old Dana Wilkes, who was reported missing Nov. 10, 2012, after she didn't show up for work. Her body was found Nov. 25 near Youngstown Road by duck hunters in a boat who spotted her partially clothed body on the bank. Her head and hands, along with part of her forearms, were severed from her body.

Forensic pathologists could not determine how Wilkes died.

Prosecutor Neal Pinkston said Bigoms was acquitted in another homicide case in 2006 after Dinah Burney was found dead on Caine Avenue. Bigoms' DNA was found beneath her fingernails and in her mouth. He also noted that DNA evidence testing by TBI did not exclude Bigoms as a suspect in the Wilkes case.

Wilkes' head and hands were never recovered.

Investigators searched several locations where Bigoms stayed a few weeks after Wilkes' body was found. Brown pointed out that no blood, tissue or fibers tied Wilkes to the case. Cigarettes butts with his DNA were found in Wilkes' vehicle.

However, Brown said Wilkes gave Bigoms a ride to a few stores and dropped him off at the Family Dollar on Brainerd Road. She knew Bigoms through her husband, who was incarcerated at the time of her death.

Bigoms "was admittedly in the car with her," Brown said.

Brown argued that investigators can't say when DNA evidence was left there. Investigators interviewed Bigoms' girlfriend, who said she watched him bleach a pair of shoes around that time period.

"It's not unusual for someone to wash or bleach their shoes," Brown said.

Judge Barry Steelman ruled to lower the bond.

"The court does not disagree with Mr. Brown's characterization of the case," he said, when discussing the likelihood of Bigoms' getting convicted.

Wilkes' family wore purple ribbons and pictures pinned to their clothing. Some cried and others held their heads in their hands upon hearing Steelman's decision.

Steelman imposed conditions for Bigoms, including a 10 p.m. curfew and a requirement that he must be placed on an electronic monitoring system.

A trial date of Feb. 18 has been set.

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