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Staff photo by Angela Lewis Foster A photo of Sarah Lea (Davis) Perry hangs on the wall Wednesday, August 17, 2016 in the Cold Case Unit. Tuesday afternoon the Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted 43-year old Jason Kirk Sanford of Westland, Michigan, for First Degree Murder in the June 2000 death of Sarah Lea (Davis) Perry.

Tuesday marked the start of a the trial of a Michigan man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and stuffing her in a trash can in East Ridge in 2000.

Chattanooga prosecutors say Jason Sanford, 45, murdered his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Perry, 21, in June 2000 and then fled to Michigan. Perry was found in a garbage can in Spring Creek near the 1600 block of Springvale Avenue by two teenage boys looking for crawdads, and Sanford was not indicted until August 2016, after District Attorney General Neal Pinkston's cold case investigators reopened the homicide.

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Staff photo by Angela Lewis Foster East Ridge police chief J. R. Reed, left, speaks during a press conference Wednesday, August 17, 2016 in the Cold Case Unit, joined by Chattanooga police chief Fred Fletcher, Investigator Mike Mathis and Hamilton County (TN) District Attorney General Neal Pinkston, from left. Tuesday afternoon the Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted 43-year old Jason Kirk Sanford of Westland, Michigan, for First Degree Murder in the June 2000 death of Sarah Lea (Davis) Perry.
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Jason Sanford

One of the state's four witnesses, Mary Boyd, said Tuesday she called the East Ridge Police Department in 2000 and 2004 to tell them she had seen a white man with long hair who matched Sanford's description driving near Spring Creek with a garbage can in his truck. Boyd said the department never returned her calls or tried to meet with her, and that she first discussed this with an investigator working for Sanford's attorneys in the fall of 2018.

On the witness stand, Boyd, who was living in a trailer at the time, said she watched the truck pull away. But on the way out, she said, the tailgate was open and the garbage can gone. Boyd said she later saw tracks in the mud that looked like wheels from a garbage can.

During their cross examination, Sanford's attorneys questioned Boyd's memory, as they did with other witnesses. Defense attorney Amanda Dunn pointed out Boyd had suffered some brain damage in a car crash more than a decade ago and had more recently been in and out of the hospital for medical conditions that required strong medication that put her in a "cloud."

Before Boyd's testimony, Dusty Fine, who operates the Fine Body Shop on Ringgold Road in East Ridge, testified that one of his garbage cans had been stolen from the front of the shop the night before Perry was found in June 2000. Before Fine, a neighbor at the time, Peggy Ferguson, said she heard Perry and Sanford often arguing.

The trial continues Wednesday before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz. Sanford faces one charge of first-degree murder and has remained in custody since his indictment. He pleaded not guilty.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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Staff photo by Angela Lewis Foster Pam Hilton talks about her daughter Wednesday, August 17, 2016 in the Cold Case Unit. Tuesday afternoon the Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted 43-year old Jason Kirk Sanford of Westland, Michigan, for First Degree Murder in the June 2000 death of Sarah Lea (Davis) Perry.
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