Suspect seeks to change plea in death of nursing student - WSMV News 4

Suspect seeks to change plea in death of nursing student

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Donnie Frank Jones Donnie Frank Jones
Megan Sharpton Megan Sharpton

A 37-year-old man who pleaded guilty in the death of a Middle Tennessee nursing student wants to withdraw his plea just three weeks after he was sentenced to life in prison.

Donnie Frank Jones, of Tullahoma, TN, filed a motion for inadequate council after he previously pleaded guilty in the death of 24-year-old Megan Sharpton.

Sharpton, of Tullahoma, was found dead by a passing driver near the Awalt Bridge in July 2012. Police said she was murdered and her body was set on fire to cover up the crime, but the fire instead preserved DNA evidence that prosecutors say matched Jones.

Jones was charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated rape.

A grand jury had indicted Jones in the case late last year.

The motion for inadequate council means the judge who sentenced Jones to life will have the case back in his courtroom once more. If he denies the motion, Jones then has the ability to appeal to higher courts.

Jones pleads guilty Feb. 4

Earlier this month, Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree murder without the possibility of parole for killing Sharpton.

By taking the plea deal, Jones avoided the possibility of the death penalty.

Jones became the prime suspect in 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.

Prosecutors told Judge Jay Curtis they had proof Jones used an elaborate scheme - posing as a potential nursing client to lure Sharpton - before raping her, shooting her in the face and setting her on fire.

Investigators said cell phone records put Sharpton and Jones in the same area on the day she was killed, and Sharpton's burned scarf was found on property belonging to Jones' uncle within a short distance of where her body was found.

Sheriff's officials said a second person of interest in the case, whose identity has not been released, is still being investigated as an accessory to Sharpton's murder. Investigators said Jones had someone purchase a throwaway cell phone that Jones used to call Sharpton and other potential victims.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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