Azotea could face death penalty in couple’s murder
Published 8:17 am Friday, July 31, 2015
A Carter County man charged with the murder and dismemberment of a Sullivan County couple earlier this year could face the death penalty if convicted of those crimes.
Eric James Azotea, 43, of 135 Woodland Drive, Johnson City, appeared in Carter County Criminal Court Thursday for arraignment on charges of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of abuse of a corpse and one count of tampering with evidence.
During the proceedings, District Attorney General Tony Clark made an announcement regarding the case.
“The state will be seeking the death penalty,” Clark said. “We will be filing that within the next week.”
Judge Stacy Street appointed attorney Steve Finney to represent Azotea. Finney represented Azotea on these charges previously in General Sessions Court before the case was bound over to Criminal Court.
In the event the state does file a motion seeking the death penalty, Street said he would appoint a second attorney to serve as co-counsel as is required in all capital cases.
In court, Finney waived a formal reading of the indictment and entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client. Finney then asked that a motions hearing day be set in the case in about a month.
“There’s some things I want to bring to the court’s attention,” Finney said.
Street set a motions hearing date in the case for August 24.
Azotea was arrested in April following a four-month investigation into the disappearance of Arthur Gibson Jr. and his girlfriend, Amber Terrell, both of Kingsport.
Following his arrest, investigators interviewed Azotea and said he confessed to killing the couple, dismembering their bodies and then attempting to burn the remains at his home on Woodland Drive.
Officers began investigating Gibson and Terrell’s disappearance in mid-January after family members reported them missing. The couple were last seen Jan. 7. Family members told police the couple had gone to visit a relative in Carter County.
At the time of Azotea’s arrest, police said they believed the killings may have been sparked by a drug debt owed by Azotea to Gibson.