A Bledsoe County man has been sentenced to life in prison in guilty pleas to two slayings in neighboring Cumberland County that happened over a two-day period in March 2019.
John Patrick Fields, 49, was sentenced to life in a guilty plea to first-degree murder in the March 12, 2019, shooting death of Makayla Laray Manning, according to Cumberland County Circuit Court records. Fields also was sentenced on a guilty plea to second-degree murder in the March 12, 2019, death of Lowell Thomas "Chip" Simmons, who was killed prior to Manning sometime between March 10 and March 12, 2019, court records state.
Fields appeared June 27 before Cumberland County Circuit Court Judge Gary McKenzie, records state. A life sentence in Tennessee means Fields must serve at least 51 years before becoming eligible for parole. Fields was sentenced to 25 years in prison on the second-degree murder plea, which was ordered to be served concurrently, or at the same time as the life sentence, according to court records.
The second-degree murder count was reduced in the plea from an original charge of first-degree murder, according to court records, and two counts of attempted first-degree murder and a count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon were dismissed as part of the plea agreements.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted the probe leading to the charges in the two incidents along with the help of the sheriff's office, according to agency spokesman Josh DeVine. TBI agents concluded both Manning and Simmons had been shot by Fields, DeVine said in a news release on the original investigation.
Fields' attorney, Dunlap, Tennessee, lawyer Sam Hudson, was unavailable and could not be reached for comment Thursday.
According to court affidavits in Fields' case, the investigation started with a report of a suspected dead body on Critter Creek Road in Cumberland County, where a man's body was found under a pile of garbage and brush. The body was later identified as that of Simmons, and Fields told officers he killed the man and put his body under the brush but there was no explanation why. Fields later took officers to the same location where they previously located Simmons' body, the affidavits state.
In the second incident, deputies were called to a shooting at a home on Vandever Road in Crossville where they found three people shot, one of whom, identified as 23-year-old Mikalya Manning, had died at the scene, according to affidavits.
Fields went to the home armed with a rifle and fired multiple times into the residence, then entered the residence where he fired several more shots, fatally striking Manning, who was unarmed, the affidavit said. The hail of gunfire outside the home struck Joseph Manning in the head and chest and Eleasha Curry in the arm, according to the affidavits. They survived; their ages are unknown. Fields also attempted to run over the two victims with his vehicle, according to the affidavits.
Fields was given credit for time already served in jail from March 13, 2019, to June 27, 2022, court records state.