Crime Stoppers: 1996 Murder of Lester Wellington - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Crime Stoppers: 1996 Murder of Lester Wellington

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Chattanooga Police Department Sgt. Bill Phillips works on the Lester Wellington file in the cold case office Chattanooga Police Department Sgt. Bill Phillips works on the Lester Wellington file in the cold case office

It is a strange factoid in the days of gang-related shootings, but Chattanooga was a much more violent town in the late 1990's than it is today. Wednesday marks 19 years since Lester Wellington was murdered.

Mountains of evidence, testimony, and statements later, investigators need just one or two little bits of information to mark this case: solved. "A lot of accumulated things over the years make this case a really really solvable case," explained Chattanooga Police Sgt. Bill Phillips.

That is not a phrase often uttered, especially with a cold case murder. The file fills at least three notebooks in Sgt. Phillips' office.

Video from the Channel 3 archives shows the scene, 19 years ago, this week. Lester Wellington had been shot in the chest. He died outside his home on North Hawthorne Street. "There was evidence of a struggle in different areas of the home," said Phillips. And there was evidence the home had been ransacked in certain areas,"

Witnesses reported seeing three or four suspects. "They were armed with various weapons," Phillips said, "guns and long guns."

This was likely not a simple armed robbery. "There was quite a bit of information that came to us to indicate that there had been some drugs in the home and possibly sold from that home," Sgt. Phillips explained.

The mid-to-late 90's era is remembered for an influx of crack cocaine. "That's when it really hit us hard and there was a spike in violence throughout the city," Phillips added, "but especially in areas like this." The North Hawthorne area is Orchard Knob.

There is a fact that sets this case apart: the victim was found wearing a dress and earrings. "He was known in the area," Phillips said. "He was a hairdresser. He was known to be a cross-dresser. Most people in that neighborhood knew him."

Though it may make the case stand out, it is something Sgt. Phillips thinks played no role with the suspects in Wellington's murder. "The people would be from this area and they probably were there because of the drugs and not necessarily because of the person," he said.

The 3 to 4 suspects were seen fleeing in a dark blue colored late 70's to early 80's model car, quite possibly a Chrysler.

If you can put any of this together, no matter how insignificant what you remember may seem, call Crime Stoppers: 698-3333

If you have been scared of retribution for all of these year, we have you covered. No one will ever ask who you are, even if you are awarded the reward cash.

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