The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of an Anderson County man convicted of killing his uncle and shoving his body into an apartment closet more than seven years ago.
The court upheld the conviction, which led to a lifetime sentence without parole, in a 14-page opinion filed Friday, October 18.
The defendant, Norman Lee Follis Jr., 56, had told a detective that he killed his uncle, Samuel “Sammie” J. Adams, 79, after he saw Adams on top of his girlfriend, groping her and refusing to stop. When he tried to pull his uncle off of his girlfriend, Follis said, his uncle turned and attacked him. Follis said Adams had him down on the floor, and he couldn’t get out from under Adams, so he grabbed the first thing he could, a heater cord, and wrapped it around his uncle’s neck until Adams let go.
Prosecutors characterized Follis’ explanation for the killing—the defense of a third party followed by self-defense—as a story that he latched onto and then elaborated upon during an interview with Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Detective Don Scuglia in January 2012. Two hours of taped interviews with Scuglia were “full of lies,” Tony Craighead, deputy district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District, said during the trial in May 2016. Prosecutors called it murder, a premeditated killing that profited Follis and his girlfriend, Tammy Sue Chapman, now 51. They said Follis misled family, neighbors, and law enforcement officers about where Adams was that last month—before his body was found in a Patt Lane apartment closet on January 24, 2012—and they cited testimony that Follis sold Adams’ car for $1,000 cash on January 16, 2012.
In his appeal, which was filed last year, Follis argued that the state had failed to prove premeditation and didn’t show that a deadly weapon was used. He said prosecutors didn’t have a declaration of his intent to kill Adams.
But the state and appeals court disagreed, saying premeditation was established by Follis’ actions during and after his uncle’s death. Among other factors, those actions included placing the electrical heater cord around Adams’ neck and using it as a deadly weapon, hiding the body in a closet and pushing a couch in front of the closet door to conceal it, and using his uncle’s car after his death.
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