Convicted child rapist charged in wife’s 1986 murder

Deborah Bess, Jewell Bess

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Rutherford County man serving time for child rape has been indicted for the murder of his wife 25 years ago.

Deborah Sherfield Bess died of a gunshot wound August 19, 1986. She was 38 years old.

At the time, investigators ruled her death a suicide.

Deborah Bess, Jewell Bess
Deborah Sherfield Bess died of a gunshot wound August 19, 1986.

Last May, cold case detectives Lt. Bill Sharp and Sgt. Dan Goodwin received new information from witnesses about the circumstances of her death and, after a lengthy investigation, presented their findings to the Rutherford County grand jury who indicted Jewell Moses Bess.

“Relationships change over the years and this is what happened in this case,” explained Goodwin.

He continued, “There were a lot of people who thought it might be more than that, but in the absence of anyone having information.”

Currently the 63-year-old is serving a 15-year prison term after he pleaded guilty in 1998 to four counts of child rape.

He will complete the sentence next September.

Bess is expected to appear in a Rutherford County courtroom on the first degree murder charge on April 13.

The case is the seventh cold case solved by the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office’s cold case unit since it was created in 2000.

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