UPDATE: Man pleads guilty to 1989 homicide; sentenced to six yea - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Man pleads guilty to 1989 homicide; sentenced to six years

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Richard Layne Richard Layne
Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston.
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: A Chattanooga homicide is now solved after sitting cold for nearly three decades. 

Samuel Reeves, 49, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter Wednesday in the death of James "Richard" Layne. 

Layne was found stabbed to death inside a room at La Plaza Motel on Cummings Highway in 1989. 

Reeves was taken into custody immediately after appearing in court Wednesday where he admitted to stabbing the 47-year-old 32 times. 

The case sat cold for nearly three decades. 

Investigators only had a sketch of a suspect to go off of until fingerprints from a recently DUI arrest matched those found on beer cans at the crime scene. 

Investigators say that match cracked the case wide open. 

"We probably wouldn't be here. Mr. Reeves was never on our radar," CPD Investigator Sgt. Bill Phillips said. 

Cases like this are usually presented to the grand jury and it's up to them to decide if the evidence supports the charge but Reeves pleaded guilty Wednesday to a lesser charge to avoid the possibility of a murder conviction. 

"There's no dispute that this was a tragic situation and there was a killing many years ago and that Mr. Reeves is responsible for that. He accepted responsibility today by entering that plea today," defense attorney Lee Davis said.

Layne's family was too emotional to go on camera but did say they got some of the answers they've waited 28 years for and heard Reeves say two very important words. 

"I'm sorry for what happened," Reeves told Hamilton County Judge Tom Greenholtz. 

District Attorney Neal Pinkston says this is this ninth case his team has solved since creating the cold case unit in 2014 and says this is an example that no matter how old a case is, truth will prevail.

"No suspects are ever eliminated and they looked at people back then, but this kind of narrowed that focus," he added.  

Reeves began his six-year sentence Wednesday. He will be released in one year and serve the rest of the time on probation in Alabama. 


Samuel Reeves, charged in the 1989 death of James "Richard" Layne, faced a judge Wednesday morning. Reeves pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a six-year sentence.

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