Trio charged in campground killing




By J.J. Stambaugh

Three people have been charged with murder in the Wednesday shooting death of a Lenoir City teenager during a robbery attempt at the Yarberry Peninsula Campground, said Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider.

Stephen Andrew Bridges, 21, of Lenoir City; Jessica Nicole Ward, 21, of Lenoir City; and Jonathan Vincent Hurst, 19, homeless, were arrested today on charges of first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery, Guider said.

Investigators believe that Stephen Michael Booth was killed between 3:30-5 a.m. in the parking lot of the campground located just off Highway 321. No campers reported hearing gunshots, authorities said.

“We believe the incident occurred due to an attempt to rob Mr. Booth and something apparently went sour,” Guider said. “A significant struggle took place and ultimately a gunshot to the top of Mr. Booth’s head caused his death.”

Investigators believe that Bridges was the shooter, but all three suspects have given statements indicating “they were present, they knew what the plan was,” the sheriff said.

The gun used in the slaying hasn’t been recovered but investigators are optimistic it will be found, according to Guider.

Guider said the case was solved due to the diligent efforts of Sheriff’s Office detectives and the Patrol Division that “worked tirelessly for over 50 hours to a successful ending along with TVA Police Lt. Lauren Harrison, who was with us from the beginning to end.”

The Knoxville Police Department also helped in the case by taking one of the suspects into custody, he said.

More details as they develop online and in Saturday’s News Sentinel.