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Thomas Wortham is being held on $1.5 million bond

By Chris Harris
Updated October 20, 2015 02:15 PM
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Credit: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Police in Tennessee claim they’ve solved a 17-year-old cold murder case, thanks to a tip from a police informant that ended up being completely erroneous.

Capt. Randy Starkey from the Dickson County Sheriff s Office in Charlotte, Tennessee, tells PEOPLE that investigators there spent years trying to solve the brutal execution of Eric Baxter, a 32-year-old man whose body was found inside his home during the summer of 1998.

Baxter had been shot six times, according to Starkey, who claims detectives were never able to track down the gun that was used in the killing.

But a break in the case came last December, says Starkey, when a police informant allegedly urged detectives to take a closer look at the victim’s onetime business partner, 46-year-old Thomas Wortham.

Specifically, the informant told investigators the gun that was used to kill Baxter was interred with Wortham’s late father, Wilbur, who was buried at Memory Gardens in Centerville, Tennessee, back in 2002.

Acting on the informant’s tip, detectives from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office had Wilbur’s grave exhumed, according to Starkey. However, no gun was recovered from the disinterred coffin, he says.

But the exhumation did yield new evidence that then led to Wortham’s arrest on murder charges Oct. 13, says Starkey, who declined to provide additional details about what police may have found.

Wortham is charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder. He is being held on $1.5 million bond in the Dickson County Jail and has not yet entered a plea to the charges against him.

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