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Tony Bigoms, 54, right, is led into the courtroom during jury selection for his first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse trial in the November 2012 slaying of Dana Wilkes in Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom at the city-county courts building on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The jury for the trial has been sequestered and are expected to work into the weekend to reach a verdict.

This story was updated Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, at 10 p.m. with more information.

A jury on Monday night found 60-year-old Tony Bigoms guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and abuse of a corpse in his retrial on the killing and dismemberment of 48-year-old Dana Wilkes in 2012.

On the charge of first-degree murder, Judge Barry Steelman sentenced Bigoms to life in prison. A sentencing hearing for the charge of abuse of a corpse is set for December.

The prosecution and defense rested their cases Monday afternoon. Bigoms chose not to testify in the trial.

Wilkes was last seen Nov. 9, 2012. Her body — headless and handless — was found down an embankment in the 3700 block of Youngstown Road next to South Chickamauga Creek on Nov. 25 of the same year. Her head and hands were never found.

some text Tony Bigoms, 54, listens during jury selection for his first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse trial in the November 2012 slaying of Dana Wilkes in Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom at the city-county courts building on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The jury for the trial has been sequestered and are expected to work into the weekend to reach a verdict.

Bigoms' attorneys moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing the state hadn't proved beyond reasonable doubt that Bigoms was the one who killed Wilkes.

Apart from his DNA being found on a bra, believed to be Wilkes', that was right next to an impact barrier on Youngstown Road, there wasn't any physical evidence linking him to the scene. Cell phone records showed he was near the site where her Jeep was found not far from Wilcox Tunnel on Wilcox Boulevard on Nov. 10, but cell phone records are unreliable, they argued.

"No reasonable juror could conclude Mr. Bigoms is guilty of this offense beyond reasonable doubt," the defense argued.

Nevertheless, Judge Barry Steelman ruled in favor of the prosecution, and the motion failed.

"The court understands that this is a circumstantial evidence case," Steelman said. "But it has already instructed the jury that circumstantial evidence can be enough to convict if it is convincing enough."

Closing arguments continued late Monday afternoon, and by about 8:30 p.m. the jury reached a verdict.

Bigoms had previously been found guilty of the murder in 2014 and sentenced to life in prison, plus four years for abusing Wilkes' corpse. The following year he asked for a new trial, with his attorneys arguing the first jury was influenced by forces outside the courtroom.

Then, in June 2017, the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals reversed the judgment, citing issues with jury sequestration and the local judge's decision to allow testimony about a different 2006 slaying for which Bigoms was acquitted.

The new trial began Sept. 10 with the jury being seated. The sequestered jurors spent the following days hearing testimony from friends and acquaintances of both Bigoms and Wilkes, crime scene investigators and experts.

After losing most of Friday to a major water main break, sequestered jurors filed back into Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Saturday and Sunday to hear from several witnesses, most of whom were crime scene investigators and experts.

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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