UPDATE: The family of a Bledsoe County man who was found dead in April is fighting for justice. Three people have been arrested in connection to 30-year-old Thomas Rogers' death.

Family members of the victim and suspects sat across the aisle from each other in the courtroom. What makes this case difficult is that they know each other.

"It makes me sick. Knowing that they were all friends at one time or another, it makes me sick," Terry Kelsey, Thomas Rogers' mother said.

In orange jumpsuits, Nakayla Sullivan, Marcelino Leal, and Keiven Bundy appeared in front of a Bledsoe County judge for an arraignment hearing on Friday. Each hired an attorney and pleaded not guilty.

Sullivan faces conspiracy to commit first-degree murder charges. Leal and Bundy are accused of first-degree murder.

"They took my son's life. Give them life in prison," Kelsey said.

Kelsey and a group of close friends were at Friday's court hearing wearing t-shirts that say "Rest In Peace Tommy."

He disappeared in April before investigators discovered his body in a remote part of the county in a barrel. His mother searched for days trying to find him.

"It wasn't meant for me to find him. The good Lord didn't want me to find him," Kelsey said.

At the time, Rogers' family said he asked Sullivan for a ride and never showed up for work the next day. Friends said he was recovering from drugs and recently got a new job.

"Tommy was a good person. Everybody has their flaws. If you knew Tommy, you had a friend for life," Latocia Lathem, a family friend said.

A cross filled with his ashes is what keeps his mother fighting for justice. That's what she says will give her strength to attend every court hearing.

"It's the only way I've got him. It's the only thing I got now. Pictures, memories, and ashes," Kelsey said.

The suspects' families did not want to comment about the hearing. They're expected to be back in court toward the end of next month.


PREVIOUS STORY:  Three people have been indicted and arrested for the April death of a Pikeville man, Thomas R. Rogers.

A joint investigation by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agents, Bledsoe County Sheriff deputies the Pikeville Police Department resulted in additional arrests.

The Bledsoe County Grand Jury returned indictments charging: 

  • Nakayla Sullivan - One count of Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder
  • Marcelino Leal - One count of First Degree Murder, one count of Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder, one count of Employing Firearm with Intent to go Armed, and one count of Aggravated Assault
  • Keiven Lee Bundy  - One count of First Degree Murder, one count of Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder, one count of Employing Firearm with Intent to go Armed, and one count of Possession of Weapon by Convicted Felon 

All three were booked at the Bledsoe County Jail, where they are currently being held without bond.


 PREVIOUS STORY: Friends and family of a Bledsoe County man who was killed earlier this week are trying to raise money for funeral expenses.

Twenty-five year-old Nakayla Shawnta Sullivan has been charged with criminal homicide for the death of 30-year-old Thomas Rogers. He had previously been reported missing by family members.

They held a benefit on Sunday at the Farmer's Market in Pikeville. Around 200 people showed up for the event.

To help pay for funeral expenses, they sold food and raffle tickets for items donated by local businesses.

The benefit raised about $1700.


PREVIOUS STORY: The woman charged in the death of a Bledsoe County man was booked at the county jail on Thursday.

Investigators say 25-year-old Nakayla Shawnta Sullivan is charged with criminal homicide for the death of 30-year-old Thomas Rogers.

Rogers was reported missing before his body was found on Tuesday in a rural area.

Rogers' family says the two knew each other and that he asked Sullivan for a ride. The next day Rogers didn't show up for work.

Sullivan was being held in the Van Buren County jail on an unrelated charge.

She is now being held in the Bledsoe County jail.


PREVIOUS STORY: A Bledsoe County man who disappeared last week has been found dead.

Deputies are now calling it a homicide case after discovering Thomas Rogers' body near Big Springs Gap Road and Valley View Road Tuesday afternoon.

Rogers leaves behind a 10-year-old son who just learned the news of what happened to his dad on Wednesday.

Family members are thankful for some answers, but they have more questions.

Last Tuesday was the final time Thomas Rogers' family would hear from him. They reported the 30-year-old missing two days later but felt something didn't seem right.

"I think we knew within two days that this was what had happened because he was not the kind to leave his mother worrying,” Seana Allison, the victim’s aunt said.

Deputies discovered his body in a rural part of the county confirming his loved ones' worst fear. It's an area they had been searching for days.

To them, he was known as Tommy. His aunt described how he was trying to turn his life around.

"Had some problems in the past, got himself clean, got a job. Tommy was a die-hard as far as being a friend to somebody. If he called you a friend, he was your friend,” Allison said.

Deputies arrested NaKayla Sullivan for Rogers' death. She's facing criminal homicide charges in Bledsoe County.

She's in jail in nearby Van Buren County for a different reason, joyriding.

Her family could not be reached for comment.

Two others are in custody but have not been charged. It's giving Rogers' family some peace of mind.

"Relief knowing that we don't have to look anymore and that at least he's not suffering,” Allison said.

They want to know why he was killed.

Family members say the two knew each other and that he asked Sullivan for a ride.

The next day he didn't show up for work.

Now his aunt wants anyone who has information to step forward so investigators can piece together the missing parts of the story.

"We have text messages and Facebook messages galore claiming that 'I know this and I know that.' We're not going to rest. The police aren't going to rest until everyone that knows something says what they know,” Allison said.

The TBI is also involved in the case.

Rogers’ body has been taken to Nashville for an autopsy to determine his cause of death.

It’s unclear when his accused killer will be transferred to the Bledsoe County jail or when she’ll be in court.