The man charged with raping and murdering Tullahoma, Tenn., nursing student Megan Sharpton will spend the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of parole, according to the plea he made Monday in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Donnie Jones Jr., 37, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and already is on his way to state prison, said Franklin County Sheriff's Office spokesman Chris Guess.
The 24-year-old Sharpton's body was still burning when a passing motorist spotted what was first thought to be a grass fire on Franklin County's Awalt Road near the bridge over Tims Ford Lake on July 2, 2012. Her 1995 Ford Mustang was found the same day on Three Forks Bridge Road in Bedford County, 15 to 20 miles away.
An autopsy revealed she died from blunt-force trauma.
Kelly Sharpton, the young woman's mother, said the family now hopes to come to terms with losing Megan.
"We're letting Donnie Jones go today. He gets nothing more from us," she said Monday afternoon. "We've never been hung up on what he gets [death or life], just so long as he's off the streets."
She said the family will use money contributed in Megan's memory to establish a nursing scholarship, probably at a community college in the Tullahoma area.
Guess said investigators believe Jones met Sharpton through his wife, who also was a nursing student.
He said Jones then arranged a meeting with Sharpton under the guise of leading her to a job caring for someone at that person's home.
Guess also said forensic testing matched Jones' DNA to that of semen found in Sharpton's body.
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...