Cold Case: Local High School Grads Solve Woman's Murder

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David Wayne Newcomb
Family members of a woman murdered 18 years ago received justice when the man who killed her received a 15-year prison sentence Wednesday, sheriff’s detectives said Friday.

Defendant David Wayne Newcomb, 45, of Cookeville entered a no contest plea to second-degree murder of Rhonda Sue Bailey, 29, of Paulding County, Ga., said Detective Lt. Bill Sharp of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office’s Cold Case Unit. Newcomb will begin serving the murder sentence after completing a six-year previous sentence for assaulting an officer in Putnam County.

Work crews found Bailey’s body May 5, 1994 in a creek bed off state Route 99 (New Salem Highway). An autopsy showed her cause of death as a drowning.

Detective Sgt. Dan Goodwin said Bailey was the mother of two daughters who were ages 6 and 7 when she died. Her mother cared for her daughters when Bailey relocated to Nashville to get involved in the music industry.

Newcomb’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday but District Attorney William Whitesell, Assistant District Attorneys Paul Newman and Allyson Abbott and Assistant Public Defenders John Driver and Rusty Perkins negotiated the plea. Circuit Court Judge David M. Bragg accepted the plea.

After the plea, Sharp and Goodwin drove to Bailey’s mother’s home in Georgia Thursday where they discussed the case with her and Bailey’s daughters, who are now mothers themselves.

“They were pleased there’s been some justice for their daughter,” Goodwin said.

During the initial investigation, Newcomb was a person of interest because he and Bailey were acquainted. The Cold Case detectives reopened the case in 2009 when Metro Nashville Detective Danny Satterfield received information about the case.

Sharp and Goodwin interviewed Newcomb at the Putnam County Jail.

“He denied any knowledge of the victim and any involvement in the case,” Sharp said.

The detectives talked to other witnesses, which led to his arrest on a first-degree murder charge in April 2010.
“He (Newcomb) made admissions to eight other people that we found,” Goodwin said.

The detectives talked to two other people who had information about the murder during the plea negotiations.

“We’d like to thank the witnesses who came forward,” Sharp said. “It took a lot of courage for them to come forward and agree to testify in court. They helped bring justice for the family and victim.”
Goodwin urged people who have information about old murder cases to notify law enforcement officers.
“If a killer tells you he killed somebody, let law enforcement know,” Goodwin said.

The detectives thanked MTSU criminal justice interns Brittany Nicholson and Stephanie McPeake for their work on preparing the case for trial.

Sharp is a 1981 graduate of Cannon County High School. while Goodwin is a 1977 graduate of Woodbury High School.
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