A Nashville man who made a dramatic deathbed murder confession, only to ultimately survive, has been found guilty following an emotional trial.
On July 5, 1995, the body of Joyce Goodener was pulled out of an empty house on Ashland City Highway.
She had been stabbed in the neck, set on fire and beaten with, of all things, a gray cinder block.
Investigators said the case grew hopelessly cold, and there wasn't even a DNA sample they could tie to a suspect.
James Washington appeared to have gotten away with the crime, but then came his unexpected, unbelievable confession. Then, after trying to take it back, Washington has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Goodener's family again listened to the gruesome details of their loved one's death this week, but in many ways they were glad to be in court.
It all seemed impossible until an unexpected phone call in 2009.
"I didn't have any trust in the system. All of a sudden, I got this phone call and they said, 'We think we found him,'" said Goodener's daughter, Sonya Kimbrell.
Washington had a heart attack while in jail for an unrelated crime, and he thought he was about to die. Lying in his hospital bed, he desperately looked for a confessor and found one in guard James Tomlinson.
"He kind of got as best as he could, motioned, and said, 'I have something to tell you. I have to get something off my conscience and you need to hear this.' He said, 'I killed somebody. I beat her to death,'" Tomlinson said.
So, prosecutors were handed the most improbable testimony. Washington was always considered a person of interest, as he knew the victim and admitted he saw her the day she died. But there was never any real evidence until Washington provided it himself.
That is, until his health improved and he changed his mind. But it was too late, and Washington will now serve an automatic life sentence of at least 51 years in prison.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Thursday, May 23 2013 12:39 PM EDT2013-05-23 16:39:28 GMT
Dan Marco's son was murdered in 2010. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Only people who have lost a close loved one can understand the pain of Travis Alexander's family"My heart goes out to them, because I understand," says Dan Marco, who's son Zachary was murdered in 2010.ZacharyMore >
Only people who have lost a close loved one can understand the pain of Travis Alexander's family.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:43 AM EDT2013-05-23 15:43:24 GMT
Fallen officer's daughter graduates from kindergarten
Hundreds of Phoenix police officers showed their support for a fallen colleague by attending his daughter's kindergarten graduation in Anthem on Wednesday. Officer Daryl Raetz was killed in the lineMore >
Tatum Raetz, 5, graduated from kindergarten in Anthem Wednesday and hundreds of uniformed Phoenix police officers were there to show their support for the family.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 1:44 PM EDT2013-05-23 17:44:57 GMT
? CBS 5
Follow @JadiannCBS5, @reporterjmiguel and @elizabetherwin for updates from Jodi Arias murder trial in the death of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. [Text BREAKING to 23765 to get breaking news alertsMore >
Get live updates from CBS 5 News reporters as the jury deliberates the fate of Jodi Arias, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:55 AM EDT2013-05-23 15:55:08 GMT
(RNN) - Dozens of Cleveland restaurants have pledged to give the man who rescued three Ohio women from captivity, free burgers for life. Charles Ramsey, the guy who famously stopped eating his Big MacMore >
More than a dozen of Cleveland restaurants have pledged to give the man who rescued three Ohio women from captivity, free burgers for life.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 8:00 AM EDT2013-05-23 12:00:17 GMT
A former flight instructor who taught foreign flight students at one of the Valley's pilot schools told CBS 5 Investigates the students often could barely speak English. "I'd say at least 50 percent ofMore >
A former flight instructor who taught foreign flight students at one of the Valley's pilot schools told CBS 5 Investigates the students often could barely speak English.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 1:33 PM EDT2013-05-23 17:33:57 GMT
Jodi Arias (Source: CBS 5 News)
It is now in the hands of the 12 jurors to decide if Jodi Arias will live her life behind bars or if she'll be executed. The defense and prosecution gave their closing statement Tuesday afternoon andMore >
A jury is deliberating for a third day on whether Jodi Arias will get life or death for the murder of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander.More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 1:36 PM EDT2013-05-22 17:36:14 GMT
(Source: CBS 5 News)
Be the first to find out when the jury reaches a verdict in the Jodi Arias murder trial. She's accused of killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, at his Mesa home in 2008. The jury is deliberatingMore >
Be the first to find out when the jury reaches a verdict in the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias murder trial.More >