published Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Inmate charged with murder in 1986 cold case in Lexington, Tenn.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has charged an inmate with first-degree murder in a 1986 cold case in Lexington, Tenn.

John Edward Miller, 47, who is incarcerated in the Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tenn., on unrelated charges, was served Monday with warrants for first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping, according to a news release from the TBI.

On March 14, 1986, 32-year-old Betty Carol Thomas, of Lexington, Tenn., received a phone call at her home from an unidentified male who asked to meet her at Waugh’s Pizza in Lexington, the release states. Family members said she left her home at 11:45 a.m. and was never seen or heard from again. Her 1971 Ford LTD was found abandoned at the pizza restaurant.

Three days later, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department and the Lexington Police Department launched an investigation into Thomas’ disappearance.

In late December of 1986 hunters found skeletal remains in the Pine Lake state recreational area south of Lexington that were identified as those of Thomas, according to the release. The medical examiner found she died as a result of her throat being cut.

In January 2013, a witness called the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department and stated that Miller had confessed to killing Thomas with a cutting instrument in March 1986 and placing her body near a “state lake.” In February 2013, another witness provided a statement to TBI agents about overhearing a telephone conversation Miller made before Thomas disappeared detailing plans to kidnap here, the TBI release states. The relationship between Miller and Thomas is unknown. The TBI has exhumed Thomas’ remains to obtain DNA and resubmitted case evidence for testing with more advanced technology now available.

Miller, who was charged with aggravated robbery in Carroll County in 1986 and sentenced to 40 years in prison, was out on bond on that charge when Thomas went missing, the release states.

He was paroled in 1995 and arrested in Illinois on robbery and burglary charges. His parole was revoked, he was sent back to Tennessee and has been imprisoned here since 2002.

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