Kingsport man charged with killing mother arrested after hospital release, posts bond

Rain Smith • Aug 18, 2010 at 2:16 AM

A Kingsport man — and former fifth-grade teacher — accused of killing his mother then setting her body on fire was arrested Tuesday, then released after posting bond.

According to Capt. Ed Swayze of the Kingsport Police Department, Spencer M. Tate, 35, of 160 E. Ravine Road, was taken into custody upon his discharge from Holston Valley Medical Center. During his subsequent arraignment hearing, bond was set at $100,000, which he posted.

Tate — who's been suspended without pay from his position at Rock Springs Elementary School in Colonial Heights — was hospitalized Saturday, July 31. That's when police were called to conduct a welfare check at his condo, according to court affidavits, and found his mother's body smoldering in a bed.

Police say that while they were on scene Tate overdosed on medication, requiring hospitalization. He has been charge with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse, with a court date set for Oct. 12.

According to police records and court affidavits, Nina Elkins Anders, 61, was visiting her son from her home in Norton, Ky., when the incident occurred. When police knocked on Tate's door he answered and let them inside, allegedly saying, "I may have hurt mom."

Police report observing heavy smoke coming from a bedroom, where Anders body was found on the bed. Police say she, "had burn marks around her waist and ... her underwear had been set on fire."

Tate claims to have "blacked out," according to an affidavit, awakening to find his mother dead. Police say Tate also relayed how he poured alcohol on and around the body, "trying to burn her." He allegedly said that when he saw flames, he put them out.

After obtaining a search warrant for the home, Kingsport detectives reached the conclusion that Anders had first been smothered to death. The affidavit says police found a pillow missing from Tate’s room, where an empty pillowcase remained.

In the bedroom where the victim was discovered, detectives allegedly found a pillow in the closet. They say it contained two reddish stains that appeared to be blood.

"It is probable to believe the defendant took a pillow, smothered the victim to death, and then attempted to hide the crime by setting her on fire," states the affidavit.

According to Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, Tate had worked as an elementary school teacher for the school system since 2001.

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