Hearing in U.C. murder-for-hire case reset for July 19

Brad Hicks • Apr 10, 2013 at 9:18 PM

ERWIN — An IQ test has been requested for the Unicoi County woman charged in August 2011 for allegedly attempting to hire a hitman to kill her ex-husband.

Gerald Dorene Tipton appeared in Unicoi County Criminal Court on Wednesday for a plea deadline hearing. Her attorney, David Crockett, said Tipton has been cleared in previous psychiatric evaluations, but no IQ examination was administered at the time of these evaluations. Crockett also said his client does not have a “full grasp” of her case. He also told Cupp that Tipton’s neighbor encouraged her alleged actions.

Judge Robert Cupp reset the hearing for July 19 to allow time for the IQ examination to be conducted. Assistant District Attorney General Fred Lance said the state would oppose granting Tipton diversion or alternative sentencing due to the seriousness of the alleged offense.

Tipton and her current husband, James M. Tipton, were arrested on Aug. 16, 2011. She is charged with solicitation of first-degree murder and a charge related to the delivery of narcotics. According to officials with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, during the course of a joint narcotics operation the department was conducting with the Erwin Police Department, authorities received a tip regarding a possible murder-for-hire plot.

On the day the couple was arrested, an undercover agent posing as a hitman met with Dorene Tipton at the Zane Whitson Welcome Center, where she paid the agent to have her ex-husband killed, according to officials. Sheriff’s department officials said she provided the agent with a photograph of the target and information including what times he would be home and directions on how to carry out the killing.

Dorene Tipton was taken into custody as she attempted to leave the welcome center property. James Tipton was arrested later that evening for having knowledge of the plot. Officials said he told officials that his prescription pills were used to help his wife complete the transaction with the supposed hitman.

In February, James Tipton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to solicit first-degree murder and conspiracy to deliver a schedule IV drug. He was scheduled for sentencing on Wednesday, but Cupp said he wanted to keep the cases together and the sentencing was reset. James Tipton is also set to appear in Criminal Court on July 19.

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