Officials rule Coffee County death a homicide after investigating burned body

Officials rule Coffee County death a homicide after investigating burned body

March 12th, 2013 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Burned body found in Coffee County, Tenn.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

HOW TO HELP

Anyone with information related to the March 9 discovery of a woman's body near a cave off Firetower Road in Coffee County is asked to call the Coffee County Sheriff's Office at 931-728-3591 or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-TBI-FIND or 1-800-824-3463.

Medical officials in Nashville ruled the death of a woman found Saturday in Coffee County, Tenn., a homicide after finding she was killed by a single gunshot to the chest, officials said Monday.

Authorities hope the completed autopsy will help them determine the woman's identity, Coffee County Sheriff's Office Capt. Frank Watkins said.

A family on an outing at an old rock quarry between Manchester and McMinnville made the grisly discovery around 1 p.m. CST Saturday, Watkins said.

Investigators believe the woman's body had been at the scene off Firetower Road about 24 hours when it was found, he said. He wouldn't say whether any weapons or other items were found at the scene.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an email that preliminary autopsy results showed the manner of death but, so far, not the victim's identity.

"TBI agents believe she was murdered somewhere else and her body dumped there due to evidence found [and] not found at the scene," Helm said on Monday. She did not comment further.

"She was partially burned -- not completely," Watkins said.

According to the TBI, the victim is a white woman between 4 feet, 8 inches and 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing between 100 and 120 pounds. She has brown eyes and blonde/auburn hair.

The woman was wearing a black shirt with orange writing and a pink brassiere. She had no teeth in her bottom jaw but wore dentures as her top teeth, and she may have had a pierced left eyebrow, a TBI news release late Monday stated.

Early Monday officials knew only the gender of the victim but were "waiting for confirmation of race and approximate age," Watkins said.

The area where the body was found is an old rock quarry -- called the "Summitville caves" by some -- where people go to hike and ride all-terrain vehicles, according to Watkins.

But investigators don't believe the woman was at the site for either of those kinds of activities, he said. He wouldn't elaborate.

The "caves" are not real caves, but deep rock cuts left behind by quarry operators, he said. The area is used by locals for recreation and wildlife watching.

Officials are seeking help from anyone who saw or heard anything unusual in the area on Friday or Saturday.

"We're just asking the public that if they know of anybody who has gone missing to please contact us, or anyone with any other information [about the case]," Watkins said.