A Rocky Top woman has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the death of an 83-year-old man during an alleged robbery in August.
Christy Viola Comer, 38, faces one count of first-degree murder for the premeditated and intentional killing of J.C. Copeland, according to an indictment filed by the Anderson County Grand Jury in Clinton on March 5.
Comer faces two more charges of first-degree murder for allegedly killing Copeland while committing two other crimes, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, according to the indictment.
The five-count indictment also charged Comer with those two other crimes, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. Comer took Copeland’s property violently through the use of a deadly weapon, and she entered Copeland’s home without permission, intending to commit a felony, according to the indictment.
Comer has an arraignment scheduled for the five felony charges on March 29 in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton.
Comer had initially been charged with criminal homicide in the case. That charge was sent to the Grand Jury after a preliminary hearing in Anderson County General Sessions Court in Clinton on January 22. With the Grand Jury indictment, Comer now faces three Class A felonies, rather than one, as well as the aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary charges.
Comer had planned to rob Copeland, who was described as a “sweet old man,” because “it would be easy,” according to testimony during the preliminary hearing in January.
Copeland’s body was found partially wrapped in a pink blanket underneath a porch at a mobile home on Jacksboro Avenue in Rocky Top on August 31, according to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent John Hannon. Copeland is believed to have been strangled until he died, according to court records. There was white rope around Copeland’s neck and other parts of his body, including his wrists and ankles, Hannon testified during the preliminary hearing.
Inside Copeland’s home, investigators found a fresh brown stain on the floor near his front door, white strings similar to the material found around his neck, and in one possible sign of a struggle, cigarettes on the floor, according to Hannon’s testimony. An acrylic painted press-on fingernail was found in the living room, Hannon said. It’s similar to the type of press-on fingernail that a woman might wear, Hannon said when questioned by prosecutor Emily Faye Abbott.
Outside the home, Copeland’s vehicle was missing.
Comer traded some of the property stolen from Copeland’s home, a digital video disc player, for a $10 bag of methamphetamine, according to court testimony by Hannon. Comer was found in Knoxville that same day after police there responded to a vacant, abandoned vehicle, a green Mercury Marquis. It was found in a parking lot in a high-crime, high-drug area on North Broadway, and it was reported stolen from Rocky Top, Knoxville Police Department Officer Drew Winstead said.
Besides the DVD player, Comer is alleged to have taken pills from Copeland’s home and looked for other items, such as knives and old cell phones. After she moved Copeland’s body under his porch, she took his keys, including his car keys, Hannon said in court in January.
In an arrest warrant filed September 1, Hannon said Comer conspired to rob and kill Copeland.
“During an interview following the incident, Ms. Comer admitted that she intentionally stole property from inside and outside the home of Mr. Copeland,” Hannon said in an affidavit of complaint included in the arrest warrant. “Ms. Comer also admitted that she intentionally moved the corpse of Mr. Copeland to the outside of his residence, under the porch of the home, in an attempt to conceal his body.”
Evidence that has been collected in the case includes DNA samples, police body camera recordings, cigarette butts, beer cans, clothing, and items from inside Copeland’s vehicle.
The TBI started investigating Copeland’s death in August at the request of Seventh Judicial District Attorney General Dave Clark and with help from the Rocky Top Police Department, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, and Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force.
Comer has been jailed at the Anderson County Detention Facility in Clinton since the alleged murder, and she remained jailed there on Wednesday afternoon. Her bond on the criminal homicide charge had previously been set at $1 million.
See previous story here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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