Convicted murderer cooperating with state

Becky Campbell • Jun 12, 2012 at 10:01 PM

One of three people charged in a 2010 murder discovered during a missing person search for another person is cooperating with prosecutors and does not want a trial.

That information came from Gary Gilbert’s attorney, Cliff Corker, during a brief hearing in Washington County Criminal Court on Tuesday.

Gilbert, 41, of Johnson City, is charged with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery in the death of Steven Rodriguez.

“He’s serving a 25-year sentence in Virginia. Obviously we’re not going to be going to trial,” here, Corker told the judge.

“He’s cooperating with the state and he testified in both trials in Virginia.”

The Virginia trials and Gilbert’s guilty plea there was for the death of 21-year-old Natasha Collins. It was her disappearance that led Johnson City police to find Rodriguez’s body.

He was found May 25, 2010, lying in a pool of blood inside a Pine Street apartment rented by Collins. She had been reported missing after friends and family couldn’t reach her for several days.

Investigators believe Gilbert and his two codefendants, Tony and Jennifer Purcell, concocted a plan to rob Rodriguez. Police say that happened, and in the process Rodriguez was killed.

The trio apparently decided to kill Collins as well because she led them to Rodriguez and knew about the robbery. During the Rodriguez murder investigation, Collins’ body was found in a wooded area of Scott County, Va.

The three were charged there with murder and Gilbert testified against the Purcells and another woman who helped the three after Collins’ death.

Brown set Gilbert’s case for a plea deadline Aug. 13. The Purcells are set for plea deadlines July 10.

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