The 17-year-old cold case had been closed. Adolphus Hollingsworth was found guilty in January of second-degree murder in the 1997 death of his wife, Victoria Hollingsworth, and sentenced in May to 22 years in prison.
But today the case might be reopened. Adolphus Hollingsworth's conviction could be overturned and he could be acquitted or given a new trial.
"The offense on which he was convicted of was out of the statute of limitations," said attorney Bill Speek, who represents Hollingsworth. "What our client is looking for is the court to find the conviction to be invalid."
Speeks filed a motion on July 17 arguing Hollingsworth's conviction is not permissible under law because the statute of limitations for a second-degree murder charge, which is 15 years, had expired before an amendment to the indictment was filed on Jan. 5 of this year.
Former Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern will set aside retirement today and retake the bench via video conference from her new home in Puerto Rico to hear this motion. Since Hollingsworth's trial took place in Stern's courtroom, she is required under Tennessee law to hear motions in this case for up to 60 days after vacating the bench.
It is not uncommon for retired judges to hear cases immediately after leaving their post, said Michele Wojciechowski, communications director for the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Speek said Stern will hear arguments from the defense and prosecutors on the motion. The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Nearly two decades ago, Victoria Hollingsworth disappeared from her Duncan Avenue home early on the morning of Aug. 18, 1997. Her remains were found buried under tires and plastic on Billy Goat Hill, in East Chattanooga, in May 1999.
During Hollingsworth's January trial, prosecutors spent a day and a half presenting the case to jurors. They said Hollingsworth stabbed his estranged wife while she was supposed to be taking him to work in her Mustang. He then buried her body and bought a truck so he could drive himself to work after her death.
Prosecutors pointed to brush stuck in the bumper of the Mustang that was from a type of bush located in Hollingsworth's yard, tire tracks leading to that bush, and the blood sample found in the car as evidence of that scenario.
The defense argued that there was a lack of evidence directly linking Hollingsworth to the car, the Duncan Avenue home or Billy Goat Hill.
The defense called no witnesses and Hollingsworth did not testify during the trial.
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.