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Cooksey reinterred, Ashe checks new leads

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By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post

The body of a young man killed in 1969 but was exhumed 40 years later as a part of a murder investigation was reinterred on Monday afternoon, this time next to his parents at Bellwood Cemetery.

Charles “Butch” Ragland Cooksey Jr. was found dead in the road 5 miles north of Lebanon on June 14, 1969, in the early hours of the morning. He was 19 years old and his death was ruled at the time as a hit and run.

But after persistent questions from family and friends, Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe decided to re-open the 40-year-old case. As it turned out, Ashe found that the evidence potentially points to something worse than a simple hit and run.

Cooksey’s body was exhumed in October from Wilson County Memorial Gardens and his body was sent to the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Paleontology Department and Dr. Lee Jantz, who performed an autopsy as one was not performed originally.

Ashe said that with the new technology that was not available in the 1960s, the case would seem like a hit and run, but he is now certain that Cooksey was murdered.

“We know who he was with during his last hours,” Ashe said. “Our suspect had a motive, the opportunity and the ability and that is important to an investigation. He has gotten an attorney, but has yet to make a statement.”

Ashe added that investigators have received calls from the public with information about the case. They are investigating those leads.

“We are going to take the information we have acquired as well as the information from the autopsy and present it to the District Attorney for his judgment on how to proceed,” Ashe said.

Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at ben@wilsonpost.com.

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