The cousin of a man found slain on the banks of the Collins River in November has been charged with his murder.
The alleged killer, Chad Ray Thompson, 33, was picked up Monday morning by officers at his apartment on Red Road, a residence located directly across the street from McMinnville Police Department and the same road off which the body of the victim, Tracy A. Martin, 38, was found just before Thanksgiving last year.
Thompson, who has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1995, is being held under $5 million bond at Warren County Jail. He is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. It has not been announced whether the death penalty will be sought in the killing, although it is a prosecutorial option in cases of premeditated, first-degree murder.
His arrest came after the grand jury issued sealed indictments against him Friday. He had been a focus of the investigation since the body of his cousin was found along the banks of the Collins River by fishermen Nov. 20.
According to the indictments, Thompson robbed his cousin of cash and a 38-caliber pistol.
“We had been looking at him among others,” Sheriff Jackie Matheny said of the many leads lawmen tracked down in the days and weeks following the discovery of the victim’s body.
Sheriff Matheny said he could not divulge the manner of Martin’s death since there could still be more arrests made in the murder and there are still details not revealed to the public which prosecutors wish to keep secret until all arrests have been made.
There have been unconfirmed reports the victim suffered blunt trauma and perhaps gunshot wounds leading up to his death. His body was found half in the water at the edge of the river bank which adjoined a field off Red Road about three miles from where Thompson lives.
While not revealing the manner of death, Matheny said he is convinced it was Thompson who killed his own cousin for the purposes of robbing him.
“We feel like he was the one who took him down there (to the river bank) and robbed and murdered him,” Matheny said, noting numerous agencies worked on the case and put in hundreds of hours. “I can’t reveal the exact nature of the robbery at this time.”
Thompson, in an exclusive interview with the Southern Standard just before his arrest, maintained he had nothing to do with his cousin’s death and claimed law enforcement was harassing him.
“I didn’t kill him,” Thompson said, noting he was told someone had informed law enforcement he was seen having rough horseplay with his cousin just prior to the victim’s disappearance. “They keep harassing me everywhere I go and telling people I did this.”
Thompson said officers seized his truck and sent it to a crime lab for analysis. Along with saying his truck had been “trashed” by investigators before it was returned to him, Thompson pointed to a paper which reportedly revealed there was no traces of blood found in his vehicle.
“They didn’t find nothing,” Thompson said, holding up the piece of paper attesting no evidence was found inside his pickup.
The vehicle still had crime scene tape affixed to it, and Thompson said he intended to leave the markings on the vehicle. Thompson suggested someone was misleading lawmen concerning his involvement.
“Someone is trying to put this on me,” Thompson said, again denying any involvement in the murder of his cousin.
“There were other areas being looked at and searches conducted,” Sheriff Matheny countered when hearing of Thompson’s comments concerning his truck, noting he feels there was sufficient evidence as shown by Thompson’s indictment by the grand jury.
Matheny said Thompson refused to come out of his house when officers first arrived Monday morning, but surrendered himself when they contacted his girlfriend who apparently, in turn, convinced him to go peacefully.