New push made for charges in slaying at Tellico Plains

photo Steve Bebb

10th DISTRICT SPECIAL PROSECUTORS2008Russell Johnson, district attorney in the 9th District, is named to handle embezzlement allegations against former Athens, Tenn., Detective Bill Matthews.2010Johnson also handles allegations against Cleveland City Councilman George Poe, accused of firing a handgun at burglary suspects driving in a neighborhood.Joe Baugh, former district attorney in the 21st District, is named to handle results of a TBI investigation into former 10th District Drug Task Force Chief Mike Hall.Al Schmutzer Jr., retired district attorney in the 4th District, is named to handle allegations from an internal affairs investigation of former Cleveland police Detective Duff Brumley.Randy Nichols, district attorney in the 6th District, is named to handle allegations of campaign finance violations by McMinn County sheriff candidate Joe Guy.2011Baugh is named to handle case against Niota, Tenn., police officers Keith McCarter and Jonathan Scott in the beating of a motorist.2012Bill Cox, Hamilton County district attorney, is named to handle the John Edward Dawson murder case in Monroe County.Paul Summers, retired district attorney and state attorney general, is named to handle allegations from TBI/comptroller's investigation into the 10th Judicial District.Source: Times Free Press archives

Vince Cole's family is tired of excuses and inaction.

There's no doubt that Joshua Anderson shot Cole to death at a Tellico Plains, Tenn., campground in 2009.

Witnesses saw it happen, watched Cole fall in a gravel parking lot and never move again. Anderson admitted it in court last year. Jurors saw the .22-caliber Ruger that he used to kill Cole and gravely wound Cole's friend Danny Adams at the Hidden Lake Campground.

But the Cole family's campaign to bring Anderson to account has been stymied at every turn by what they believe is a prosecutor's office bent on protecting him.

This week, Cole's sister-in-law, Trishe Williams, will make her second appearance before a Monroe County, Tenn., grand jury to ask for indictments for murder and attempted murder.

She'll be going in alone. Tenth Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb has declined to either assign an assistant district attorney to present the case or to recuse his office and seek a special prosecutor.

"I'm going to go Wednesday and present it again and try to get them to indict," Williams said Friday.

Her first trip to the grand jury was in October 2012. That was after a Monroe County jury refused to convict Adams of reckless homicide in Cole's death.

At Adams' August trial, Assistant District Attorney Jim Stutts pushed the theory that Adams provoked the fight and therefore bore the blame.

Even the judge was dubious.

Adams and Anderson both testified that Anderson's wife, Jamie, fetched a gun from the couple's car and gave it to her husband. Adams testified he hit Anderson when he saw the other man pointing the gun at Cole.

Jurors found Adams guilty of simple assault. At his sentencing, Criminal Court Judge Carroll Ross declined to give him jail time.

"I don't know anything about the facts before the trial starts. About halfway through, I'm wondering, why is he sitting over here [in the defendant's chair] as opposed to maybe somewhere else?" Ross said from the bench.

At the time, Stutts told Adams' lawyer in Adams' hearing that the district had no plans to charge Anderson.

At the October grand jury session, Williams said, grand jurors sounded sympathetic but, without a prosecutor present, told her they didn't know what charge to bring.

She was ready to go back in November, she said, but Bebb promised he would look into the case.

"We gave him the benefit of the doubt, and we're still waiting," she said.

She kept calling the district attorney's office, pushing for action. Earlier this year, she said, Assistant District Attorney Steve Hatchett told her his office couldn't charge Anderson because he'd been the victim of a crime during the incident.

Bebb told her that he can't get a special prosecutor, known as a pro-tem, named. But he promised that if she could get the grand jury to indict, he then could get a substitute prosecutor.

Bebb did not respond to an emailed request for comment Friday.

Williams said she reminded Bebb that Anderson was arrested April 10 in Madisonville with three weapons. Police said he and another man were throwing cinderblocks at cars. Witnesses reported a gunshot and police found Anderson with a 9 mm handgun and a spent round at his feet. He faces three charges each of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

It's up to Bebb whether to seek an indictment. As Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper pointed out in his recent report on a TBI/comptroller's investigation into the 10th District, a district attorney has absolute discretion whether to bring charges.

Cole's stepfather, Reece Williams, and Adams' father, Dan Adams, will be there to support Williams on Wednesday.

"For three years, we thought Danny was guilty," Reece Williams said in an earlier interview. "Then when we went to trial we found out it was in the other direction. Danny was fighting for his life. He made it by the skin of his teeth, but Vince didn't make it."

Adams' father, Dan Adams, said Friday the families don't intend to give up.

"We are indeed going to go, if we have to, over everybody's head to get this to light ... and get justice for Vince and Danny," he said.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at 423-757-6416 or jwalton@times

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