From left to right, Det. Randy Murray, Sgt. Frank Light and KPD Police Chief David Quillin. Photo by Rain Smith.
More than 100 police interviews in four states have led to an arrest in the 2011 murder of a Kingsport woman, with police saying the suspect and victim were acquaintances.
Jonathan Lynn Slemp, 42, address provided as 241 Chesterfield Drive, Kingsport, was arrested Tuesday afternoon during a scheduled visit with his probation officer at the Kingsport Justice Center. Earlier in the day, a Sullivan County grand jury returned indictments against Slemp, charging him with first-degree murder, felony murder and especially aggravated robbery.
Slemp is accused in the bludgeoning death of Betty Sue Short, who was 65 at the time of the murder. Her body was reportedly discovered by a family member on the Sunday morning of Oct. 16, 2011, inside her Barnett Drive apartment.
Kingsport police investigators characterized the murder of Short — who had numerous health issues —as "extremely brutal." There was no forced entry at the residence, leading police to believe that she knew the suspect, while a toolbox containing two handguns and two collector knives was stolen from the residence.
During a Wednesday morning press conference at the Kingsport Police Department, Police Chief David Quillin declined to provide many specifics on their investigation of the incident, citing the impending court case.
He did confirm that KPD investigators, led by Sgt. Frank Light and Det. Randy Murray, had suspected Slemp in the murder "for some time" and previously interviewed him "at least once."
No specific breakthrough was cited in the arrest of Slemp, nor was a motive for the murder divulged to the press. Quillin attributed the indictments to tedious, persistent police work, with interviews conducted as far west as Colorado.
"I wish these cases were as easy as they appear on TV sometimes," said Quillin, referring to murders wrapped up tidily in 60 minutes on crime dramas.
"It was a combination of a process of gathering things in a very methodical manner and being able to present things in such a fashion that the result was a positive outcome at the grand jury."
At the time of the 2011 killing, Slemp was living a few miles from the home of Short. Police confirmed he had gone to school with her son and was a longtime acquaintance.
Quillin thanked other law enforcement agencies for their assistance with the case including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. He declined to cite any specific lab work that was implemented or comment on whether any item used as a murder weapon had been located, but did confirm some stolen items had been found.
In March of last year, the Times-News reported a suspect in Short's death might be connected to other area cold case murders. At that time, the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office and Kingsport Police Department confirmed they were working together on two such incidents.
On Nov. 29, 2010, Gary Lavon Jones, 53, was found in a pool of blood on the floor of his Lone Oak Drive mobile home. He was stabbed multiple times. SCSO detectives suspected a friend of Jones might have been involved.
Investigators were unable to confirm anything had been stolen, but they think prescription narcotics might have been taken from the residence.
On Wednesday morning, SCSO Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart said her agency was aware of the charges against Slemp — and hopes his arrest may spur others to come forward with new information in the murder of Jones.
"We know that Jonathan Slemp was an acquaintance of Gary Jones," said Earhart. "We're looking into that, and at this point (Slemp) has not been eliminated as a suspect."
Tuesday's arrest marks the second in six months related to 2011 murders investigated by Kingsport police, with Sgt. Light and Det. Murray heading up each case.
In August of last year, Dominique Lashon "Domo" Morrison and Jarrod Logan "Hoodie" Anderson were charged in the murder of Jarrett Hughes, 24.
That incident occurred in August of 2011 on Dale Street, when two men burst through the back door of the victim's mother's home, shooting Hughes before fleeing. Police say Hughes was targeted in the attack by Morrison and Anderson, with robbery being the motive.
As of Wednesday, Slemp remained jailed on charges in the slaying of Short, with bond set at $300,000.