Husband arrested in 1986 Rutherford County cold case - WSMV Channel 4


Husband arrested in 1986 Rutherford County cold case

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Jewell Moses Bess (Courtesy: Rutherford County Sheriff's Dept.) Jewell Moses Bess (Courtesy: Rutherford County Sheriff's Dept.)
Deborah Sherfield Bess Deborah Sherfield Bess

A Rutherford County man, who was already behind bars for child rape, is now accused of killing his wife some 25 years after she died. The death was ruled a suicide at first, but new information is pointing towards murder.

There's nothing left at 2503 Richland Richardson Road in rural Rutherford County but a vacant lot. This is where Rutherford County Cold Case detectives now believe 38-year-old Deborah Hulett Bess was murdered some 25 years ago.

Bess died from a gunshot wound Aug. 19, 1986. Her death was originally investigated as a suicide, but a big break in the case came in May of last year that now indicates foul play.

"Relationships change over the years, and this is what happened in this case," said Cold Case Unit Det. Dan Goodwin. "Last May something occurred where people started calling."

"It's a difficult situation. They are afraid to come forward because of fear, threats, intimidations," said Cold Case Lt.. Bill Sharp.

A grand jury indicted 63-year-old Moses Bess this month for the first-degree murder his second wife, Deborah. He was already serving a 15-year prison sentence for four counts of child rape to which he pleaded guilty in 1998.

Detectives said the woman's children, who are now in their mid-20s to early-40s, were happy to hear about the indictment.

"They are elated, extremely happy," Sharp said.

This makes the seventh cold case Rutherford County detectives have solved since the unit formed in 2000.

"I'm very proud of these guys. This is their job, their passion. That's what they do. They work hard in doing this job," said Sheriff Robert Arnold.

Even with this new break in the case, Cold Case detectives said their work is just beginning. They will now have to determine what happened the last few hours before Deborah Bess was allegedly murdered.

"Once an arrest is made, we tend to locate more witnesses. People are more willing to come forward with more information," Sharp said.

Moses Bess was transferred from the Tennessee Department of Correction's Turney Center to the Rutherford County Jail, where he will finish out his prison sentence, which is due to end in September 2013.

He could be released at that time, but Rutherford County Sheriff's officials are hoping his trial for murdering his wife will be over by then.

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