The Top Hamilton County True Crime Story For 2024 - And Response

  • Saturday, February 24, 2024

The top Hamilton County True Crime Story for 2024 occurred on Feb. 21, 2024 and barely anyone noticed. On Wednesday afternoon, Courtney High appeared before the Honorable Judge Boyd M. Patterson, Hamilton County Criminal Court, Division 3, and pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. High was a member of the Athens Park Bloods criminal street gang. Jerrica Jackson, Bianca Horton and Marquise Jackson - may they rest forever in peace. High must endure a life sentence for his ways.

These pleas culminated in an almost eight-year period of investigation and prosecution. High was originally only charged with the Jerrica Jackson homicide. The murders of Bianca and Marquise had fallen cold, and justice had been suspended. Enter Cameron Williams, Colin Campbell, Chief David Roddy, CPD’s Gang and Homicide Unit, the now-defunct Cold Case Unit, the FBI, and other untold members of local law enforcement. In this misaligned world of instant gratification, most people are unable to stay on task for almost eight years. However, these prosecutors and law enforcement agents were not to be deterred.

Prosecution efforts began in earnest when former prosecutors, Lance Pope and Kevin Brown, led efforts which resulted in Cortez Sims being convicted of murder and paralyzing Bianca Horton’s sweet child, Zoe. Bianca was kidnapped and murdered for daring to testify against Sims and the Athens Park Bloods.

Other efforts began to make an impact in March 2018 when 54 members of the Athens Park Bloods were indicted by a Hamilton County Grand Jury for racketeering and homicide charges and other related charges. Such efforts had not been seen before and would not have been possible had Chief David Roddy not dedicated resources with the Cold Case Unit to solve these homicides and to thwart the continuing influence and crimes of the Athens Park Bloods.

Those almost eight years were met with setbacks. Uncooperating witnesses, COVID, and long days of lengthy litigation. Yes, the RICO charges were dismissed according to the law as written. Anytime a judge upholds a law as written and not imagined is the way our republic should work. However, as High told Judge Patterson and the Court last Wednesday, the RICO case decimated the gang known as the Athens Park Bloods.

Over the last 20 years in this community, there has been an effort to educate young people on the trials and tribulations of joining a criminal street gang. One of the best educational lessons ever was delivered last Wednesday at the plea hearing. High took the witness stand and answered questions from each of the victims’ family members about the gang and their purposes. A quality investigative journalist would procure a copy of the transcript of Wednesday’s proceedings before Judge Patterson and examine the words with a very keen and precise eye. The words uttered in court are a primer on teaching young people why not to join gangs. High told the whole world about his original thoughts of the gang and how in reflection he feels about the gang atmosphere.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Campbell are two of the finest prosecutors that Hamilton County has ever seen. Between the two of them, there is the experience of prosecuting over 200 jury trials. Try to find those skills anywhere else in the State of Tennessee. Hamilton County should be forever indebted to their perseverance and making sure the cases of Jerrica, Bianca, and Marquise found justice.

I am fairly certain Mr. Campbell and Mr. Williams want no accolades or praise. They will continue to go quietly about their job. Hamilton County should realize Mr. Campbell and Mr. Williams would have never been in a position to achieve justice without the support and encouragement of law enforcement. Winbush, Scott, Roddy, Mathis, Fuller, Blackwell, Galloway, Walker, Pope, Brown, and untold others are just a few of the people who Hamilton County should forever be indebted to. They taught this County and State how to dismantle a criminal street gang. So, take a moment and realize the efforts of these public servants. Last Wednesday was a historic day.

We shall never forget those we have lost to violent cowardly violence. There is much work left to do. May Jerrica, Bianca, and Marquise forever rest in peace. God’s blessings and peace to their families.

Neal Pinkston

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Neal Pinkston's summation of the Courtney High plea deal was excellent. He is right that hardly anyone noticed, but I sure did. And I wondered why it wasn't spotlighted more prominently. An incident that left a small child seriously wounded is horrible enough, but seeing her mother murdered because she had the guts to stand up to thugs, and then dumped by the side of the road like a discarded mattress, should have made people scream for justice. Not to mention the murders of two other people for similar reasons. At least the prosecutors wanted justice.   

With the spotlight on stadiums, building countless bland boxes called apartments/condos, destroying local businesses, emphasis on bloated-budget, unnecessary projects, a blind eye to crime and the number of homeless living on our streets, not to mention a police department devoid of leadership, we might not see gangs brought to their knees or murderers brought to justice in the future. 

I hope I'm wrong. Losing David Roddy as chief of Police was a big mistake, but that's only one factor. Maybe other citizens will start voicing their concerns regarding the other issues we're facing. I hope so.

Thank you, Mr. Pinkston.  

Dana Lingerfelt

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