Family seeks justice for slain man

photo Prosector Jim Stutts

Now that the man charged in the death of Vince Cole has been set free by a jury, the slain man's family is determined that the true killer be brought to justice.

On Aug. 31, a Monroe County, Tenn., jury found Danny Adams, of Clinton, Tenn., not guilty of criminally negligent homicide in Cole's death. On Wednesday, Cole's sister-in-law, Patricia Williams, asked Monroe County grand jurors to indict Joshua Anderson, of Madisonville, Tenn., and charge him with shooting Cole to death and wounding Adams at a Tellico Plains, Tenn., campground in July 2009.

"We were led to believe for three years that Danny [Adams] instigated it, to the point that, if he had not done that, the shooting would not have happened," Williams said in a telephone interview.

"We waited patiently for three years for the trial to happen. I had been told it would come out in the trial why Mr. Adams was charged and Mr. Anderson was not," she said.

But on Aug. 30, during Adams' trial, "it was brought to light that Danny should never have been charged and that Josh was not charged or even interviewed," Williams said.

Adams told the Times Free Press that, after his trial, he heard 10th Judicial Assistant District Attorney James H. Stutts tell Assistant Public Defender Jeanne Wiggins -- Adams' attorney -- that the DA's office did not intend to bring charges against Anderson.

So Adams and his parents and Williams and her husband, Jeff, who was Cole's one-year-older stepbrother, decided to go around the prosecutor.

Asked by the Times Free Press if he would prosecute a case if the grand jury indicts Anderson, Stutts said in an email: "I cannot respond to hypothetical questions of possible prosecutions. The proceedings of the grand jury are secret until such time as they vote and report their decisions to the Criminal Court."

Williams said that, should the jury indict Anderson, she will petition 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Bebb to recuse his office and ask for a special prosecutor.

Anderson could not be reached for comment. A telephone listed in his name in Madisonville is disconnected.

Stories in court

During Adams' trial, Anderson, 30, admitted on the stand -- after Criminal Court Judge Carroll Ross reminded him of his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself -- that he shot Cole, 42, and Adams, then 36, in a melee after a night of drinking at the Hidden Lake Campground in Tellico Plains.

He testified that Adams and Cole came at him with knives and he was just trying to defend himself. But his words differed from witness statements and other testimony. No witness told investigators or testified that day that Cole had a knife. No witness testified that Adams had a knife.

Investigators didn't find a knife the night of the shooting. A blue razor-style knife that was introduced as evidence and bore traces of Adams' DNA was found the next day by a camper after investigators left.

Anderson also testified that he and his wife, Jamie, were just trying to get away from Adams and Cole. He said he sent her to their car, but instead of going with her, he followed Cole to the restrooms down a staircase that led away from their vehicle. Jamie Anderson, instead of staying by the car, retrieved a .22-caliber Ruger handgun from the vehicle and brought it to him.

Anderson also testified that he never spoke to the police about what happened that night.

Monroe County Detective Doug Brannon, the case's chief investigator, confirmed in court that, although he probably interviewed 25 people, he never formally interviewed Anderson, the known shooter.

The jury took less than two hours to find Adams innocent of reckless homicide and aggravated assault. Jurors found him guilty of one count of simple assault, a misdemeanor. Adams testified that he hit Anderson once when he saw Anderson pointing the weapon at Cole.

Adams said he is appealing the conviction, but he and his parents, Dan and Bonnie Adams, of Madisonville, said they want Anderson punished.

If the grand jury doesn't indict him, the elder Adams said, "We go again next month; they have a different set of jurors. If they don't do it then, we'll go to someone special in the TBI, and if we need to we'll go to the state attorney general.

"It seems to us laymen that they're going to a lot of trouble and willing to take a lot of heat for some reason. It seems to us they are protecting Joshua Anderson."

But a prominent Nashville attorney, a former prosecutor who now practices criminal defense, thinks the family's ploy is a long shot.

David Raybin said it's fairly rare for an individual to go before a grand jury and even rarer to get an indictment.

"Theoretically you can get an indictment, but that district attorney can turn around and ... just dismiss it," Raybin said.

He called the state's reason for charging Adams "very tenuous" and an "extremely odd prosecution," but also said Anderson had a right to defend himself if he believed he was being attacked.

Danny Adams said he's not going to give up.

"I'm not going to rest until this guy is prosecuted," he said. "I'm not going to lay down. I lost my best friend and almost lost my life, and this guy don't even get charges."

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at 423-757-6416 or

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