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 to hear from several witnesses, most of whom were crime scene investigators, in the retrial of accused killer Tony Bigoms.
Bigoms, 60, is accused in the 2012 killing and dismemberment of 48-year-old Dana Wilkes.
Wilkes, who stood 4 feet, 11 inches tall, weighed just 100 pounds and had blonde hair, according to Times Free Press archives, 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. Her head and hands never were found.
A bra was found right next to an impact barrier on the narrow road. A red, inside-out shirt clung to some bushes that appeared to have been pushed down, as if something had traveled from the road down to the creek bank where the body lay, a Chattanooga Police Department crime scene investigator, who photographed the scene, testified Saturday.
There weren't very many clues left where she was found. Animals and decomposition had set in from the waist up, making it difficult for forensic pathologists to determine how she died. Her clothes were dirty and wrinkled. She had a red cigarette lighter in her pocket and a single white pill tucked away in her change pocket. A plastic keyfob lay beside her.
Cadaver dogs were brought in, but apart from an unrelated black bag with decomposing animal remains, they found nothing.
A medical examiner later ruled her cause of death as undetermined.
"The head is absent, neck severed at the third cervical vertebra; the resection margin shows a pattern consistent with tool mark," the report states, according to Times Free Press archives. Part of her forearm had also been severed, and bruises were noted along her midabdomen and neck.
Meanwhile, Wilkes' husband, Tom, had been locked up in the Hamilton County Jail without bond since he was arrested the month before for violating probation for a traffic offense. He suspected Bigoms from the beginning.
"There had to be some trickery somewhere," he told the Times Free Press in December 2012. "Maybe he was on drugs. I believe he knows something."
Dana Wilkes' 2000 green Jeep Cherokee was found near Wilcox Tunnel on Wilcox Boulevard on Nov. 10. There were blood smears and splatter in multiple areas throughout the vehicle, Chattanooga police investigators testified.
Photos showed blood splatter on the dash and windshield. Smears of blood were found on the steering wheel, the center console, on the bottom of the rear passenger side door, and blood stains were found on the rear floorboard and the headliner above the front seats.
A wad of blonde hair and a diamond-type earring also were found in the front passenger seat. The earring's back was on the front passenger floorboard.
Stephanie Coleman, one of Dana Wilkes' self-described best friends, said Bigoms was around a lot, even while Tom Wilkes was in jail. He seemed "infatuated" with her, she said.
"He was always over there working on things. She needs something done, he was over there," Coleman said. "He was over there all the time."
Coleman said she found out Dana Wilkes was missing through Bigoms. She was in town and was looking for her but couldn't get in touch with her, so she called Bigoms.
He automatically told her Dana Wilkes was missing, she said.
"I had asked him how was she was missing," she said. "Why, what made her — Dana didn't just leave and go somewhere and not tell somebody anything."
Bigoms told Coleman he was the last person known to be with Dana Wilkes, Coleman said.
"He said that they went to Family Dollar," she said. "And they went to Walmart, and when I asked why they went, it was something about some toilet fixture that she needed he said that she had dropped him off at Family Dollar."
Coleman continued questioning Bigoms about where Dana Wilkes would have gone, she said, and "he mentioned selling pills."
But Coleman thought that was odd, because she didn't think Dana Wilkes would have gone by herself to sell pills. Her husband was the one who would sell pills, Coleman said.
Another witness, Lawon Fortson, took the stand Saturday. Prosecutors brought up phone records that showed an incoming call to Fortson's phone from Tom Wilkes' phone number on Nov. 9, the same day Dana Wilkes was reported missing.
Fortson claimed it wasn't Tom Wilkes, as he was incarcerated, but actually Bigoms using Tom Wilkes' phone looking to buy drugs.
Fortson knew Bigoms but only spoke to him for drug transactions, he said.
Bigoms' defense attorney Steve Brown argued that Fortson only remembered who was actually on the line because prosecutors told him so. Fortson did agree that he didn't remember the exact date he sold drugs to Bigoms, but "it's on the piece of paper," so that must have been the date, he said.
Brown contended there is no proof Bigoms was in possession of Tom Wilkes' phone, and it was actually Dana Wilkes who called Fortson from her husband's phone. Bigoms wouldn't have a reason to use Tom Wilkes' phone to call him because Bigoms already had Fortson's phone number, Brown said.
The trial came to a resting point late Saturday afternoon. And since most of Friday was lost — only two out-of-state witnesses testified that day because of a lack of working restrooms and air conditioning — the trial will continue on Sunday.
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