Woman charged with murder

A 27-year-old Sweetwater, Tenn., woman with multiple drug charges was indicted Wednesday in the death of Monroe County Election Commission Chairman Jim Miller, who was found shot to death and burned in his car this summer.

Jessica Kennedy Powers knew Miller, said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm, who added that she didn't know the "extent of the relationship," but it wasn't a random crime.

The charred body of the 60-year-old Miller was found July 17 in the trunk of his Ford Crown Victoria. According to the indictment, he had been shot in the head three times and his head was beaten several times before he was stuffed in the trunk of the car and set afire.

The indictment charges that Kennedy Powers was robbing Miller when he was killed. She is charged with one count each of felony murder, aggravated robbery, arson of personal property and abuse of a corpse, court records show.

Kennedy Powers was transported from Meigs County, where she was being held for a probation violation, to the Monroe County jail, Helm said.

Kennedy Powers also has multiple drug charges from McMinn, Meigs and Monroe counties in 2010, her criminal history shows.

Authorities wouldn't discuss Wednesday how Kennedy Powers could have gotten Miller's body into his trunk by herself.

"You have to assume someone else is involved," said 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb. He referred all other questions to Assistant District Attorney Jim Stutts, who is prosecuting the case.

Stutts wouldn't say if anyone else will be charged or explain how Kennedy Powers knew Miller and said the investigation is continuing.

But Stutts did say Miller's death wasn't related to the elections this summer.

Miller was a lifelong Sweetwater resident and president of Jim Miller Excavating Co. He was active in community affairs and the Republican Party.

In July, Monroe County Sheriff's Capt. Kenny Hope was suspended when investigators named him a person of interest in the case.

The TBI cleared Hope's name four days later, saying he wasn't involved. In August, Hope was fired for what authorities said was a public drunkenness incident in Madisonville.

Sweetwater City Attorney John Cleveland, who was Miller's friend and attorney, said the killing shocked the community.

"Jim was very well respected here," he said. "As a friend, I didn't understand how or why anybody would have killed him."

Cleveland said that, while he "represented Jim and his corporation for 20 years, [he] never heard" Kennedy Powers' name mentioned.