Wilson Co. cold case resolved after more than 40 years - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Wilson Co. cold case resolved after more than 40 years

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James Crawford James Crawford
LEBANON, TN (WSMV) -

A Middle Tennessee cold case has been solved with a bittersweet ending, and for the first time, the victim's sister is sharing her side of the story.

Butch Cooksey was found dead on Highway 70 in Wilson County back in 1969. They called it a hit-and-run death, and it went unsolved for 41 years.

But there were rumors that a neighbor named James Crawford would sometimes brag that he killed Cooksey, and Cooksey's sister, Connie Minnick, found it too much to take.

"I could not let it go," she said. "This man was out living his life and showing my brother's teeth as a trophy. I don't see how anybody could let that go."

So Minnick went to Sheriff Terry Ashe and told him about the three missing teeth. There were always problems with the hit-and-run theory, so Ashe had an idea.

He asked to exhume the body that had been in the ground for 40 years.

"You can't prepare for something like that. You just pray to get through it," Minnick said.

It took months to put Cooksey's skeleton back together, but in end, there were three missing teeth.

Crawford had told Cooksey he wanted to kill his first wife, and the good-hearted teenager Cooksey then warned the woman.

The theory is Crawford beat Cooksey with a baseball bat, took him out to the road and ran him over, breaking nearly 190 of the 206 bones in his body.

"It was horrible when I finally learned what he had suffered through," Minnick said.

Crawford limped into the courtroom as a broken 68-year-old man and entered a no-contest plea in exchange for three years probation.

"That's the law, and we go by it," Minnick said.

Now, Cooksey's body rests in the family graveyard in clear view of Crawford's home. Yes, Crawford lives right next to the graveyard in a trailer.

"He can have his morning coffee, looking out the window and see Butch's grave," Minnick said.

Minnick found closure with writing a book. Its called A Tooth for a Tooth and includes a full-telling of this 44-year-old mystery.

She will sign copies of the book Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, 149 Public Square, Lebanon, TN.

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

 
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