Two Killings – 21 Years Apart, To The Day – Allegedly The Work Of Same Man

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 - by Judy Frank

A Chattanooga man who spent more than 15 years in prison for killing his ex-wife on September 3, 1982, is now awaiting trial for an alleged second lethal attack.

The latest attack occurred on Sept. 3, 2003 – 21 years to the day after the first.

James Curtis Nichols Sr., 55, is due back in court on first-degree murder charges on Valentine’s Day, and his trial is scheduled to begin in March.

The current charges against Nichols grow out of a 2003 altercation, during which prosecutors contend he inflicted mortal injuries on 53-year-old Thomas Joseph Hedgepath.

Hedgepath died on Nov. 9, 2004.

According to the initial police report filed by Chattanooga Police Investigator R.K. Freeman, the officer was assigned to check out an alleged assault at 211 Frazier Ave. on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2003. At that address, he discovered Hedgepath in a broken down vehicle behind the Cyberland Café and Gaming Center, “suffering from multiple stab wounds to the upper torso and a laceration on the neck.”

The officer said he located an eyewitness, Terry L. Gordon, who told police that he was in the car with Nichols and Hedgepath and observed an altercation between the two in which Hedgepath was the aggressor.

“Gordon and Nichols then exited the vehicle, with Nichols stating that he was going to take care of business with Hedgepath,” Freeman noted in his report. “Nichols opened the back door of the vehicle with knife in hand, and (stabbed) the passed-out Hedgepath several times.”

According to Gordon, the report noted, Nichols walked away from the vehicle, “then returned moments later and cut the throat of Hedgepath in an attempt to take his life.”

At the time the report was filed, Hedgepath was a patient in Hamilton County Nursing Home. He died 14 months later.

The 1982 killing – which occurred just six days after Nichols was released on parole from the state penitentiary on an unrelated felony charge – occurred at 1403 St. Elmo Ave., the home of Sharon Rose Wimberly, Nichols’ former wife.

The couple’s two teen-age children, James Curtis Nichols Jr. and Jamie Rose Nichols, also resided at that address and testified during their father’s trial.

Testimony at the trial indicated that Nichols was in a combative mood on Sept. 3, 1982, when he came to his ex-wife’s home around 5:30 p.m. drinking from a bottle of moonshine and carrying a revolver that witnesses said he flashed from time to time.

About 6:30 p.m. he accompanied his son and a neighbor to the Old South Restaurant, where Mrs. Wimberly was working as a waitress, and acted “crazy” and “weird.” After talking to his ex-wife, who was afraid he was going to get her fired, he left the restaurant and returned to the Wimberly home.

He was next door, playing cards with neighbors, when Mrs. Wimberly arrived home from work around 10:30 p.m. An altercation began shortly afterward, and eventually Nichols ordered the two teens out of the Wimberly living room where he and his ex-wife were arguing. They fled to a neighbor’s house.

The neighbor, who was watching through the window, testified that she “seen (Nichols) get off the couch and walk to the chair (in which Mrs. Wimberly was sitting), catch her by the hair of her head, pull it over and shoot her.”

When police arrived around 12:30 a.m., they found Mrs. Wimberly still seated in the chair. Her death was determined to have resulted from a contact gunshot wound, with the bullet entering her head just below her left ear lobe.

Nichols had fled the scene but was found a few hours later pretending to sleep on a nearby porch. His gun, a 22-caliber revolver, was less than two feet away.

Convicted in 1983 of second degree murder, Nichols appealed. However, the decision was upheld in 1985 by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, at Knoxville.

Nichols was released by the Tennessee Department of Corrections in 1999.


Webb Arrested For Helping Another Man Steal Items From His Grandfather's House

Dylon Webb, 22, was arrested for burglary after helping another man steal items from his grandfather’s house, police said. Officers spoke to victim David Harvey, 63, who believed it was his grandson who had broken into his house, resulting in the theft of several items, including a .22 caliber rifle. Police said they also spoke to Webb’s mother who told them it was her ... (click for more)

Ryan Burton, 26, Arrested After Ripping Off Part Of Roommate’s Ear

R yan Burton, 26, was arrested after ripping off the bottom part of his roommate’s ear during an altercation in March, police said. Officers spoke to Burton’s three roommates at 434 Whitehall Road, where they said they had been living with the suspect for more than six months and never known him to be violent. One of the roommates, Garrett Forster, told police that the ... (click for more)

Judge Steelman Was Unfairly Criticized In Handling Of School Bus Driver Rape Case - And Response

We are blessed to have freedom of speech in our society, but I am always amazed at the number of folks who voice such strong antagonistic opinions about things without any apparent first-hand knowledge.   As any who wish to criticize the system should know, people get arrested and charged for criminal offenses every day.  The ultimate charge and penalty which results ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vote For Rhonda Thurman

After studying the Hamilton County School Board quite harshly during the last seven most-tumultuous months in its history, it is only proper that I share my belief that Rhonda is its Most Valuable Player. Four of the school board’s nine members are up for re-election, with Rhonda facing capable opponents in Jason Moses and Dr. Patti Skates in District 1, but let’s never forget that ... (click for more)

Lookouts Snap Losing Streak With 8-4 Win Over Smokies

Homeruns by Edgar Corcino and Mitch Garver helped lead the Lookouts over the Tennessee Smokies by a score of 8-4. Tennessee jumped out to an early 3-1 lead against Lookouts starting pitcher Kohl Stewart.  Though his ERA went up a little bit to 3.38, Stewart improved to 5-4 on the season. The right-hander gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits over five innings. He ... (click for more)

TSSAA Sets Future Division I, Division II Classifications

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Board of Control has released the minutes from Wednesday’s meeting in Hermitage pertaining to football classification period for the 2017-18 and run through 2020-2021 1.  Roll Call 2.  Division I and Division II Classification The Board of Control voted the following for the classification period that ... (click for more)