Connie Minnick, left, and Sue Cooksey, sisters of the late Charles “Butch” Cooksey Jr., pause after the vault and casket containing their brother’s remains was exhumed Wednesday at Wilson County Memorial Park. Cooksey, whose death 40 years ago was ruled a hit-and-run, is now believed to have been murdered.
BEN DUDLEY / The Wilson PostBy BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post
The vault and casket containing the remains of a man now believed to have been murdered 40 years ago was exhumed from Wilson County Memorial Park on Wednesday for an autopsy using more up-to-date technology to determine the actual cause of death.
Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe obtained a court order for the exhumation, an act agreed to by the family of the deceased, Charles “Butch” Cooksey Jr.
The remains were taken to Ligon & Bobo Funeral Home for testing and will then be sent to Knoxville to be tested on by the University of Tennessee’s Dr. Lee Jantz, one of the nation’s foremost forensic anthropologists.
Cooksey was found in the road on a rural section of Highway 70 on June 14, 1969. His death was originally ruled a hit-and-run.
“To say that he was run over multiple times is an understatement,” Ashe said. “His body was badly mangled, but there was very little traffic on that road back then. It was most likely the same car that ran over him several times.”
Ashe said he has pieced together the last hours of Cooksey’s life through interviews. He said he was surprised at the witnesses who had come forward, but that they had been deceived by some individuals.
“Butch had his issues,” Ashe said, “but he was like any other 19 year old. He was just with the wrong people at the wrong time.”
There are two prime suspects in the case who are in their late 60s, Ashe said. Both of them have hired attorneys.
The sheriff added that the family had been very supportive of the investigation. Cooksey’s sisters, Sue Cooksey and Connie Minnick, were in attendance and said that they just wanted to know who killed their brother.
“We had always heard things about it,” Minnick said, “but we wanted to wait ’til Mom and Dad had passed because this was so hard on them.”
Ashe said he was confident in the evidence they had gathered. He noted that District Attorney Tommy Thompson was confident enough to have the body exhumed.
“We’re not going to go to this much trouble without going to trial,” Ashe said. “We have not decided with the DA’s office if we’re going to have a grand jury, but there will be a trial.”
Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.