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Emily Brooks Johnson

A woman convicted of shooting and killing her boyfriend at a Hixson gas station in 2017 was sentenced on Tuesday to 21 years in prison.

Emily Brooks, now 29, pleaded guilty on Jan. 23 to second-degree murder in the killing of 28-year-old Eric Burchfield.

The two had been entangled in an ongoing domestic dispute, investigators alleged. Text messages on Burchfield's phone revealed the couple had been "at odds," according to court documents.

At Brooks' preliminary hearing, prosecutors said she shot Burchfield in the back at a Circle K gas station in the 4800 block of Hixson Pike on July 21, 2017. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Brooks was later found with a firearm and ammunition that matched a shell casing found at the scene.

Officers tracked her cellphone to a trailer park off Tall Pine Lane, not too far from the Chattanooga airport, after Burchfield's family pointed to Brooks as the killer, the Times Free Press reported previously. And one of Burchfield's family members gave a physical description that lined up with what an eyewitness said at the Circle K gas station, prosecutors said.

When police arrived to arrest Brooks, also known as Ember Lee Cash Elm, she tried to run toward her backpack about 30 feet away, according to prosecutors. In the backpack, police found the firearm and ammunition that matched what was found at the scene.

At the time, Brooks' defense attorney, Coty Wamp, argued that the evidence against her client was not very solid.

For example, one of the prosecution's eyewitnesses identified the wrong person in a photo lineup, Wamp said. Investigators reportedly never obtained gas station footage that might have showed what happened. And the firearm manufacturer and caliber were pretty standard, Wamp argued.

Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Clarence Shattuck, however, said that, based on the testimony he heard, any gas station footage would not have had the scope to capture the incident.

He did question whether there was enough evidence to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but at that point, he only needed to determine whether there was probable cause — did a crime happen, and did the evidence point to the defendant?

Yes, he determined, and he sent her case to the grand jury.

A grand jury found enough evidence to indict her on a second-degree murder charge in December 2017, and she pleaded guilty in January of this year.

Now, after hearing the proof regarding Brooks' 16 prior convictions and hearing from both Eric Burchfield's family and Brooks' family, according to the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office, Criminal Court Judge Don Poole sentenced Brooks to 21 years in the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

Contact Rosana Hughes at 423-757-6327, rhughes@timesfreepress.com or follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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