published Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Woman found burning in Franklin County died of blunt force trauma

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    Erika Megan Sharpton, 24, of Tullahoma, Tenn., was killed around July 2 and her body was found burning off of Awalt Road by a paassing motorist in Franklin County, Tenn.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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    This photo shows burned grass near the site on Awalt Road where Erika Megan Sharpton's body was found in Franklin County, Tenn., on July 2.
    Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Preliminary autopsy results show a blow to the head likely killed the 24-year-old nursing student whose body was found a week ago still burning on the side of a Franklin County back road, authorities said Monday.

Erika Megan Sharpton, of 109 Camellia Circle in Tullahoma, Tenn., died as a result of blunt force trauma, according to Franklin County investigators and TBI agents, but authorities remained tight-lipped on other details as detectives continue to conduct interviews. No arrests have been made.

Sharpton's body was found by a passing motorist about 1:18 a.m. CDT on July 2, still burning in a grassy area off Awalt Road. The fire left a burned patch in a narrow pull-off at the west end of the bridge over Tims Ford Lake, authorities said.

Later the same day, Sharpton's red 1995 Ford Mustang was found on Three Forks Bridge Road near U.S. Highway 64 in Normandy, Tenn.

Sharpton probably was killed elsewhere before her body was dumped and burned on the side of the road, Franklin County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. Chris Guess said Monday.

"I can't say with 100 percent certainty but we're pretty sure she was not" killed at the site where her body was found, Guess said.

Guess said he "can't say" anything about who last saw Sharpton alive or where, but "we're running down leads and talking to people." He also said he couldn't say whether Sharpton's car was used in the slaying.

TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said the agency can't release any details because agents still are seeking answers. Authorities said Sharpton's car was being processed at the agency's crime lab.

Her obituary in the Tullahoma News described Sharpton as the world's "brightest star" and "a compassionate, caring soul."

She was enrolled in the nursing program at Motlow State Community College, according to officials.

Sharpton's mother, Kelly Sharpton, told Nashville's Channel 5 News over the weekend that her daughter was "brutally honest" and "brutally trusting," both characteristics that might have played into her slaying.

Meanwhile, authorities ask that anyone with information call Franklin County Sheriff's Office Detective Todd Hindman at 931-962-0123 or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-824-3463.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at 423-757-6569 or bbenton@timesfreepress.com. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at www.facebook.com/benbenton1 or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/BenBenton.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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