Suspect in I-24 rest area shooting of his father was traveling with family to Atlanta wedding

Preliminary hearing set June 15

An Illinois man charged Friday with killing his father at a state rest area in Marion County, Tennessee, was traveling with family to Atlanta for a wedding, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Micah E. McElmurry, 30, of Decatur, Illinois, was charged by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with criminal homicide after he allegedly fatally shot his father, Michael Monroe Woods Jr., 55, of Columbia, Missouri, with a handgun.

McElmurry was taken into custody after Woods' body was found in the rest area bathroom on the eastbound side of Interstate 24 at Nickajack Lake, according to a TBI news release.

A bond hearing set Wednesday for McElmurry was continued to June 15, when he'll also face a preliminary hearing, court officials said. Until then, he remains held without bond.

Twelfth Judicial District Public Defender Jeffery Harmon, McElmurry's appointed attorney, said Wednesday in a phone interview his office was just retained as counsel, so the bond hearing was delayed to allow the defense time to prepare. The 12th Judicial District includes Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Rhea and Sequatchie counties.

McElmurry allegedly shot Woods at least once, and a revolver was found in his possession when he was detained by state troopers, according to a General Sessions Court affidavit filed Friday by TBI agent Zachary Cochran.

(READ MORE: Whitwell, Tennessee, man's body recovered from Nickajack Lake after boating accident)

Twelfth Judicial District Attorney J. Michael Taylor called the TBI in to investigate the incident about 6 p.m. CST Friday. TBI agents joined deputies with the Marion County Sheriff's Office and state troopers in the probe, authorities said.

Woods and McElmurry were traveling with family - including McElmurry's mother, sister and brother - from Missouri to Atlanta to attend a wedding, Taylor said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Investigators are unaware of any kind of argument or altercation among the members of the family as they headed toward Atlanta, and what led to gunfire in the rest area bathroom remains a mystery, Taylor said.

"The father went into the men's room, and the allegation is the defendant followed him into the bathroom and shot him," Taylor said.

Woods was allegedly shot with a .357-caliber Magnum revolver loaded with .38 Special ammunition, Taylor said.

"After McElmurry came out of the bathroom, he went down toward the interstate and was confronted by a Tennessee Highway Patrolman because he still had the gun in his hand," Taylor said. "The highway patrolman pulled his gun, and the defendant threw his gun down and surrendered.

(READ MORE: College-going rate for Hamilton County high school graduates is falling)

"As far as a motive, it's still under investigation," he said.

Those who knew Woods, a home-school communicator at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri, described him as "a friend to everyone," according to a social media post from school basketball group, Rock Bridge GBK.

"Mr. Woods represented everything great about Rock Bridge," the post stated.

Hundreds attended a vigil for Woods on Monday night in the high school's stadium, according to Columbia, Missouri, media reports.

(READ MORE: Tennessee woman's sleuthing helps identify Georgia man's body after 37 years)

Rock Bridge High School Principal Jacob Sirna said on social media that Woods was a model for everyone to emulate.

"Mr. Woods had the strength to lift everyone around him up. His kindness and infectious optimism are examples for us all," Sirna said. "We should all work to be more like Mr. Woods and serve our community by making those around us feel/be better."

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.