A person of interest in the brutal killing and burning of a 24-year-old Middle Tennessee nursing student appeared in court Monday for a charge unrelated to the murder investigation.
Megan Sharpton, 24, of Tullahoma, was found dead by a passing driver near the Awalt Bridge on July 3. She was murdered and her body was set on fire to cover up the crime.
Sharpton's mother, Kelly Sharpton, came to the courthouse clutching a photo of Megan Sharpton to see, for the first time, the man she believes killed her daughter.
"I just want it to stop. I want Megan to be the one to stop him from ever doing this to anybody else," Kelly Sharpton said.
The day was so emotional that the Sharpton family had to be escorted out of the courthouse for their safety as Donnie Frank Jones Jr., 37, stood before a judge on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Dressed in orange, Jones was without his lawyer as he asked the court for a fast and speedy trial.
"I'd like to have a preliminary hearing, if there's any way, today," Jones said.
Jones was arrested last week after a warranted search of his home revealed a gun, which he was not allowed by law to possess.
Jones allegedly became the prime suspect in Megan Sharpton's murder after detectives became aware of his lengthy criminal history and that the nursing student would sometimes commute to and from school with Jones' wife.
Megan Sharpton's older sister, Leah, said it is believed Jones set Megan up before she wound up dead.
"He was posing as the person that had contact with his patient that needed a sitter," she said.
Jones' wife also showed up to the hearing Monday. She would not speak with our news crew, but she was overheard delivering several words - swear words - for the Sharpton family.
Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller told Channel 4 News last week that more key evidence was discovered inside the home during last week's search, but he said he said he couldn't elaborate.
Officials are now waiting for forensic evidence results before the district attorney could possibly move forward with a murder charge against Jones.
For now, Jones is jailed on $500,000 bond, as investigators said they believe he is a flight risk.
He is scheduled to be back in court Friday on the weapon charge.
"There's a hole in my heart that can never ever be filled," Kelly Sharpton said.
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