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The Case of Eric Baxter

Air Date: Oct. 1, 2013

Cold Justice Insider Blog: Episode 5 "Hiding in Plain Sight"

October 2, 2013

By Murray Newman

Since 1999, Murray Newman has practiced criminal law, handling cases from DWI to Capital Murder and everything in between. He serves as a consultant for Cold Justice. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog.

Contrary to what we read in books and see in movies, most murder cases aren’t really that mysterious or difficult to solve. Murder is usually a crime of passion and high emotions often lead to a killer not giving much thought to covering his tracks. I’ve often joked that there is no such thing as the “criminal mastermind.”

Once in a blue moon, however, the police work on a murder case where the killer was able to coldly plan out his strategy in advance. Those are the types of cases that are significantly more difficult to solve.

The murder of Eric Baxter in Dickson, Tennessee on August 20th of 1998 was clearly a premeditated murder. Eric lived with his mother, Joy Marsh, in a beautiful house in the country that was outside of town by many miles. The killer had purposefully driven out to the location and, the evidence indicated, planned a sneak attack on the home. Based on the evidence that we had, it appeared that the killer or killers were doing surveillance on the house from the backyard. One of the more chilling moments of the investigation was learning that Eric had heard his dog barking at something in the backyard.

The killer left no forensic evidence that could link him to the crime scene. There were no fingerprints or DNA. The investigators and the Cold Justice team all believed that Eric Baxter had been targeted. We also believed that if Joy Marsh had been at home, we would have been dealing with her murder, as well.

There may have been some initial missteps at the crime scene that would ultimately hinder the investigation. The police focused on Eric’s personal life and placed an unfair suspicion on his friend, Jerry, despite the fact that Joy told them that she believed Tommy Wortham was the killer.

Out of every case we worked on this season, Jerry was the classic example of how much damage can be done to a person’s life when they are wrongfully accused or even suspected of a crime. Tonight’s episode gave him a vindication that was long overdue.

As the investigation did finally focus on Tommy Wortham, things began to heat up. Despite the fact that no fingerprints or DNA were found at the crime scene, investigators did have ballistics evidence that could be used for potential comparison. When investigators learned that Tommy and his then-wife, Scarlett, had done target practice on a tree at their home, they decided to search the tree for bullets that might have matched the ones from the crime scene. When the tree mysteriously disappeared shortly before the police search it, we knew we were dealing with a suspect that was smarter than most.

Blog entries are the opinions of their authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of TNT.