Grand jury indicts pair in alleged Unicoi Co. death plot

Brad Hicks • Apr 11, 2012 at 6:12 AM

ERWIN — A Unicoi County grand jury on Tuesday indicted a couple charged in August for their alleged involvement in a murder-for-hire plot.

Gerald Dorene Tipton, 2441 Chestoa Pike, was indicted on charges of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, sale of a schedule IV controlled substance and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance. Her husband, James Tipton, was indicted on charges of conspiracy to solicit first-degree murder and conspiracy to sell a schedule IV controlled substance.

Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department officials previously said the Tiptons’ Aug. 16 arrests were the result of what started out as a joint narcotics investigation being conducted by the Erwin Police Department and the UCSD. According to authorities, it was during the course of this investigation officials received an informant’s tip regarding a possible murder-for-hire plot.

On Aug. 16, an undercover agent posing as a hitman met with Gerald Dorene Tipton at the Unicoi County Welcome Center off Exit 46 of Interstate 26, where she paid the agent with money and prescription drugs to have her ex-husband killed, officials said.

Officials previously said Tipton provided the undercover agent with a photograph of the target, information of the type of vehicle he drives, information on where he lives, what times he would be home and specific directions on how to carry out the murder.

Then-UCSD Chief Deputy Ronnie Adkins said at the time of her arrest that Tipton’s motive for wanting her ex-husband dead was past emotional distress during their marriage and the possibility of financial gain with him deceased.

Following the alleged transaction, authorities stopped Tipton’s vehicle as she attempted to leave the welcome center property and she was taken into custody, officials said.

James Tipton was arrested several hours later for allegedly having knowledge of the murder-for-hire plot. Officials said he confessed to his knowledge of the plot during a police interview and told authorities the vehicle and prescription pills used by his wife to complete the transaction with the undercover agent belonged to him.

Attorneys for both Tiptons waived their clients’ cases to the grand jury at a hearing on March 15 in Unicoi County Sessions Court. They are scheduled to appear in Unicoi County Criminal Court on April 18.

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