published Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Tullahoma man indicted in nursing student's slaying

A 37-year-old Tullahoma, Tenn., man has been indicted in the slaying of a 24-year-old nursing student whose body was found burning on the side of the road.

Donnie Frank Jones Jr. was arrested after a four-month investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, according to a news release.

Jones faces charges of first-degree murder, felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated rape in the death of Megan Sharpton, Franklin County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Guess said in the Tuesday statement.

The suspect was taken into custody in Coffee County, and a grand jury indicted him Monday, Guess said.

The victim's mother, Kelly Sharpton, expressed relief over the charges on Tuesday night.

"It's a bittersweet day," she said. "We're grateful that he's behind bars, where he should be. It's been a long time coming."

Jones was charged on Sept. 27 with being a felon in possession of a firearm after a search of his home in connection with the homicide investigation. The charge is unrelated to Sharpton's slaying, but it kept him behind bars on a high bond while the homicide probe continued.

Megan Sharpton's still-burning body was found early on the afternoon of July 2 by a passing motorist on Awalt Road in Franklin County. Initially, the motorist thought the blaze was a grass fire.

On the same day, Sharpton's 1995 Ford Mustang was found about 15 to 20 miles away from her body at Three Forks Bridge Road in Bedford County.

An autopsy report revealed she died from blunt force trauma.

Jones will remain in the Franklin County Jail without bond until his first-appearance hearing scheduled for Nov. 16 in Franklin County Circuit Court.

Staff writer Beth Burger contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@times freepress.com or 423-757-6569.

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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