Murder suspect bound over on escape, vandalism charges
Published 9:46 am Thursday, February 18, 2016
A double-homicide suspect charged with attempting to escape the Carter County Detention Center last month was bound over to criminal court on charges related to his escape attempt.
James Azotea, 44, of Johnson City, appeared in Carter County General Sessions Court on Tuesday where Judge Keith Bowers Jr. bound him over to the Grand Jury on a charge of attempted escape and vandalism under $500. Azotea will appear in Carter County Criminal Court on May 23.
Azotea was originally charged with vandalism over $500, but the charge was bound over as vandalism under $500 by per an agreement between Azotea’s attorney Steve Finney and the District Attorney’s Office.
The alleged escape attempt happened on Thursday, Jan. 14, according to the Carter County Sheriff’s Office. Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said deputy jailers at the Carter County Detention Center “disrupted an escape attempt” by Azotea around 11 p.m. that night.
“Deputies conducting a roving patrol of the Jail were alerted by a motion sensor in the mechanical chase located behind Mr. Azotea’s assigned cell,” Lunceford said. “Within two minutes of the alarm, jailers apprehended Azotea without incident.”
“Azotea used an improvised tool to dig out a cinder block in order to gain access to the chase area and intended to use the same tool to dig through the exterior wall,” Lunceford added.
Azotea is being held in the Carter County Detention Center in connection with the 2015 murder of a young Sullivan County couple. Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office along with agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested Azotea in April 2015 and charged him with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of abuse of a corpse and one count of tampering with or fabricating evidence.
In January 2015, relatives of Arthur Gibson Jr., and his girlfriend, Amber Terrell, both of Kingsport, reported the couple missing, telling police the couple had gone to visit someone in Carter County.
During the investigation, officers learned Gibson and Terrell had been at Azotea’s home on Woodland Drive. Following his arrest, investigators said they believe the murders were the result of a dispute over drugs and money.
In interviews following his arrest, Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said Azotea confessed to killing the couple and then dismembering their bodies and attempting to burn the remains.