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Knoxville – A Lizella man was sentenced to prison Friday in the 2017 fatal shooting of a man in Crawford County.

Thomas Gary Palmer, 61, pleaded guilty to malice murder during a hearing in Crawford County Superior Court. As part of a plea agreement, Palmer was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. He must serve 30 years before being considered for parole.

If the case had gone to trial, prosecutor April Herbert would have presented evidence showing:

Crawford County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a 911 call in the 500 block of Berlyn Drive, on the morning of April 7, 2017. A family member had called for help after finding 55-year-old Kenneth Nolan Hutcheson had been fatally shot.

Authorities later discovered that Hutcheson’s girlfriend had been due to appear in court that morning to see a judge about a 12-month restraining order against Palmer, her ex-boyfriend. She and Hutcheson had spent the night elsewhere and returned to Hutcheson’s home to change clothes before court.

At some point during the night, Palmer had arrived at the house and waited for the couple to return. Hutcheson’s girlfriend heard a gunshot after walking up the steps to the house. When she turned around, she saw Hutcheson on the ground and Palmer with a gun. Palmer struck her with the gun and forced her into Hutcheson’s truck.

Palmer held the woman against her will as they traveled to a store on Hartley Bridge Road, then to a residence in Macon and into Monroe County. When Palmer got out of the truck at a stop in Monroe County, the woman locked the doors and drove off in the truck. She stopped at a nearby convenience store and called 911 to report the shooting in Crawford County and her kidnapping.

Monroe County authorities went to the area where the woman had last seen Palmer and found him walking along the road. Palmer is accused of firing at the officers before he was taken into custody. Additional charges are pending in Monroe County against Palmer stemming from the shooting.

Speaking after Friday’s hearing, District Attorney David Cooke said, “I’m grateful that law enforcement officers were able to capture Mr. Palmer and end his reign of terror. Our hearts go out Mr. Hutcheson‘s family, and we are thankful that no other person was killed or injured.”

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Contact: Amy Leigh Womack

[email protected]

478-621-6179 (office)

478-319-2529 (cell)