Tony Bigoms guilty of first-degree murder, corpse abuse in 2012 killing of Dana Wilkes

Tony Bigoms guilty of first-degree murder, corpse abuse in 2012 killing of Dana Wilkes

April 15th, 2014 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Tony Bigoms, 54, was convicted Monday in the November 2012 slaying and dismemberment of Dana Wilkes .

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Her kindness killed her.

Dana Wilkes spent nearly all of her 48 years helping others, buying groceries for a neighbor, bringing smiles and laughter to her family, friends and co-workers.

In 2010 she and Tom Wilkes began dating and soon married.

Their union would be the gateway to her grisly death.

Tom Wilkes tried to put himself between her and her family. After she pulled 12-hour shifts at the dialysis clinic where she worked, he would make her drive him around Chattanooga all night so he could sell his medications for cash.

Tom Wilkes would have a dozen or more friends partying at their Palo Verde Terrace home late into the evening.

One of those friends proved to be deadly.

On Monday, a sequestered jury found Tony Bigoms, 54, guilty of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in Dana Wilkes' death after six hours deliberation. Dana, kind to a fault, her family said Wilkes didn't think she could trust Bigoms, bud did for Tom's sake.

Bigoms was sentenced to life in prison. He will not be parole eligible for at least 30 years.

Dana's family said Bigoms has clouded their memories of her. With this verdict they can remember the life she lived, not how it ended.

Tom Wilkes knew that Bigoms had been acquitted in 2006 of the kidnap, rape and murder of Dinah Burney. He knew police had found Bigoms' DNA in Burney's mouth, under her fingernails and on the sock tied around her neck. Wilkes knew Bigoms had been convicted a year later for holding a knife to another woman's throat and forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

But that didn't stop Tom Wilkes from letting Bigoms hang out with his wife when Tom was doing one of his frequent jail stints. This time for a driving offense.

Dana Wilkes didn't trust Bigoms, who had propositioned her for sex in her husband's absence. Still, she felt compelled to be kind to him.

Dana's mother, Carol Simms, called Tom in jail shortly after Dana was reported missing on Nov. 10, 2012.

Tom screamed over the phone, "No, not Tony," when Simms told him.

This was weeks before police would charge Bigoms with the crime.

After Dana's headless, handless body was found on Nov. 25, 2012, along South Chickamauga Creek off 3700 Youngstown Road, Tom Wilkes told the Times Free Press he suspected Bigoms had something to do with it.

Tom Wilkes wouldn't live to see justice. He died in January 2013, weeks after Bigoms was indicted on the charges.

Assistant District Public Defender Steve Brown told the jury in closing arguments Monday that it "would take a monster" to do what was done to Dana -- to kill her and then saw off her head and hands.

Prosecutor Lance Pope responded Brown was right. It would take a monster, and Bigoms was that monster.

Throughout the weeklong trial Pope and prosecutor Cameron Williams showed phone records, phone locations, store video footage, DNA evidence and blood splatters. They called nearly 30 witnesses.

But one telling detail that may have been the linchpin was what didn't happen.

Bigoms never called Dana after she went missing.

From the time Dana disappeared to the time that her phone's battery died, 175 calls came in from family, friends, co-workers. None were answered.

Not one from Bigoms.

"You see he doesn't need any confirmation," Pope told the jury. "He knows exactly where her little body is. He knows she's laying on the bank of the creek at Youngstown Road."

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.