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 September, 20 2005. 

There are thousands of stories of how people wind up in prison convicted of murder. As many as the trees in the woods where Doyle Pressley was found shot dead next to his rifle sticking out of the ground. But when getting to know the big, kind, man the other prisoners call Doctor Phil, I just could not conceive how he will ever be able to explain this whole crazy story to anyone. Anyone who might listen that is. The man in Bledsoe County Prison I’ve been talking with over the past year or so.

The courthouse is a sturdy brick building, high up on the mountain in Altamont. It was the county’s third, after someone burned the last one down and the one before it as well. Grundy had a reputation for arson, and blowing their buildings up with dynamite. A tradition perhaps left over from the mining days, when Grundy County was a center of union organizing and bitter standoffs with the coal company for living wages. 

September 22, was blustery and gray, and by ten in the morning, those interested to see the trial came shuffling in. Pressley and Grimes family members, and those just there to find out who did kill Doyle Pressley seven years ago.

Years of rumors percolated around the mountain towns of what had been going on in the Pressley home. Wondering why the men who called themselves the law around those parts had not charged anyone in those seven years. 

Wayne thought he had known Doyle and Sharon Pressley pretty well.  Their families had even been on a summer trip together. When Wayne and Patty were separated, Sharon did his construction company’s books. There was never any talk of abuse. Just thinking back, when they took in those foster children, that they were gone one day, like Doyle’ snake. Steve Groves says Doyle put it in the social worker’s mail box when she came sniffing around.  He said he heard it from Sharon that the poor woman wound up packing a U-haul and leaving Grundy County. The little pieces coming together. Wayne found out Doyle had a foster mother up in Nashville, who they were supposed to go see that day he was found murdered. Was there something to all of that, some reason Sharon didn’t want to go? 

Doyle and Sharon had given their beautiful house in Gruetli to their daughter Christy and her husband Kevin. Moving into the trailer on Hardbarger Road until they got the dream home Doyle had promised. But was that true, that they were building Dean Lay’s house on the promise he’d pay for their house when it was done? Did Dean say that, or was the money Dean paid Doyle for the work all it ever was.

The one thing Wayne knew was real, was that the night before the murder, he asked Doyle if he was going hunting the next day and Doyle said no. He and Sharon were driving the 90 miles to Nashville in the morning to do some shopping and then go see his foster mother Heidi. However he wound up dead in the woods, had nothing to do with him.

Sharon Pressley was the first to take the stand. Her daughter Christy and her children leaned forward towards the bench, eager to hear what she would say. Many knew by then that Sharon had been given immunity from prosecution if she pointed the finger at Wayne. Still, the Pressley children weren’t quite sure how their momma was going to do that, as she never said anything about Wayne Grimes killing daddy. 

What’s Sharon going to say? Is she going to have to reveal what daddy did to them, and the time Christy tried to kill herself, which alerted authorities? When daddy got probation and that was that.  They didn’t know what she was going to say, Sharon now being off in a new life with her new husband down in Texas. She was now a Lynch. Sharon Lynch. But what about them, what remained of the Pressley family, and her grandchildren? What’s it going to mean for them if that all comes out? The way people might look at them.

Prosecutor Steve Strain approached Sharon for her testimony. Bringing up the night before the murder when Wayne Grimes came by the Pressley trailer. 

“Can you tell us what you all were doing?”  Strain asked.

“After we had dinner, we all went in to watch TV, Doyle had his head in my lap on the couch and Wayne was in the chair.”

“Your husband Doyle said he was going hunting the next morning, didn’t he?”

“Yes he did.” answered Sharon. While Wayne looked over at his lawyer Paul Cross.

“Did your husband ask Wayne if Mr. Grimes wanted to come?”

“Yes sir, he did ask him.”  That’s a lie, Wayne muttered. 

“And what did he say to that?”

“He said he wasn’t sure, there was something he had to take care of first, and said he may go riding around later if he finished.” None of this happened he added

“And did your husband fall asleep?”

“Yes he did.”

“Did anyone else know Doyle was going hunting besides you and Wayne?”

“No, just him and me.”

Wayne felt the cold stab of betrayal knowing none of that was true. Doyle did not say he was going hunting so he certainly did not say he might meet him later.  What about the part where they were supposed to have gone to Nashville that morning. He looked at his lawyers Paul Cross and Howell Clements and shook his head.

Sharon then said when Doyle fell asleep, Wayne hid a note under the chair for her to read which said: “Meet me tomorrow at the motel after you drop Doyle off to go hunting.”

Wayne again looked in horror at his lawyer’s Paul Cross and Howel Clements, thinking, ‘I told you so,’ as she continued.

She said the next morning Doyle still wanted to go hunting. She got him up and ready like she always did. They drove over past the Hardees in her white Cadillac, but it was closed. She then got on the highway and then dropped Doyle off at the I-24 rest stop with his rifle. Doyle then walked off into the tree line into the woods and she drove off. She said she started towards home, and got as far as the driveway, but then remembered the note from Wayne, to meet him at the motel where he was staying.  So she drove to the motel, and said she drove by once, and when she came back around, Wayne was standing there in the driveway. She said he got in and told her to drive, so she did. That’s when Wayne said he’d just come back from the woods, he had seen Doyle in a tree and shot him. Telling her he checked the body for a pulse to see if  he was dead. Sharon told the jury, it was 6:30 AM when he told her this.

Turning to the jury, Sharon explained that the reason she hadn’t told this to anyone in the seven years that had passed, was that Wayne had told her she had to “take it to her grave.” When asked why, if she knew her husband was dead, had she kept going back to pick him up all day, Sharon said that it just hadn’t sunk in. 

Sharon said in the days after the murder Wayne came to the trailer banging on the windows by the bathroom. She said he forced himself on her, three times. Saying she was scared. Despite the fact that in her statement she said it was Doyle’s brother Johnny who was banging on her doors, accusing her of killing Doyle. Wayne could not believe the altered reality.

Strain asked her if she still had the note he gave her, she said, “no, she flushed it down the toilet.”

Wayne went numb. Through the years he had helped the Pressley family. He bailed their son Chris out of jail and let him work it off. Lent money to Doyle and his daughter Christy. The family had its troubles, but still, he thought he knew them. Only after the murder did the horrors start coming out. Learning what Doyle had done to his family was unspeakable. He sat wondering what he would have done if he had known all this. If Sharon had come to him and told him about Doyle. If he would have killed him himself. Absolutely not. There are laws in this world and some that abide by them. He’d never hurt anyone or been in trouble with the law. 

When Sheriff Myers gave him the confidential TBI memo about the threat they made to Sharon, his jaw dropped. TBI Agent Larry Davis told Sharon that he and DA Taylor had all the evidence to convict her of the murder, but if she testified against Wayne Grimes they would let her off.  It was beyond Wayne’s reasoning to believe something like that was even possible. A threat by the DA that he would convict her unless she made up this load of crap that never happened? 

Sharon was flat out lying when she said Doyle said he was going hunting. He knew the story was not true, he was sure of what Doyle had told him. He’d tried telling this to TBI Agent Larry Davis and Sheriff Meeks seven years ago. But they never listened.

But what about the prosecutors Michael Taylor and Steve Strain?  When Wayne took the stand and tried telling them that Doyle said he was going to Nashville, they mocked him. Making it sound absurd that any man would be so keen on going shopping. “You ever hear of men going shopping two weeks before Christmas? Don’t men wait until the last minute?” barked the prosecutor. Brushing off Wayne’s claims like dust on a jacket. Making him out as a desperate man trying to find a lie to save his own skin. But one thing was apparent, was that no one had talked with Doyle’s foster mother and asked her if all this was true. Whether Doyle had a plan to be there and just didn’t show up.

It was Sharon who would not talk to authorities until 6 months after the murder, and only then in her lawyer’s office. Groping for explanations for why her husband was found without the hunting vest he always wore. Without a flashlight on a pitch black morning. And why he was found with a rifle when it was muzzle loading season. Saying nothing about the planned trip to Nashville that morning.

Wayne very much wanted to know what happened in the Pressley home, the double life the family was apparently leading, unfolding in bits and pieces. The pained smirk on Christy’s face a couple of weeks before the murder, a frantic call from her to get her extra keys. Doyle got drunk, holding his daughter Christy hostage and Sharon saying, “Something has to change before Christmas, I’m not letting that man get between me and my daughter again.” 

Paul Cross’ partner was Howel Clements and when it was time for Sharon’s cross examination, he would be the one to handle it. 

Clements pointed out to Sharon that when Chris came she didn’t tell him Wayne had shot Doyle. And that she said in her original statement that she kept going back to pick up her husband every 15 minutes. Why would she do that if she had just been told he was shot dead. 

Continuing to point out that what she was saying now was not what she said in her statement of July 1, 2019. But they know that. 

Clements pointed out that she said Doyle would tell her in the morning if he was going hunting.

“So it wasn’t a definite thing your husband was going hunting?”

“Yes sir,  it was.”

“It was definite?’

“Yes it was.’

“Even though he said he’d let you know in the morning if he was going hunting.”

“He told Wayne he was going hunting, however he wanted to know what the weather was like, because he has hunted even though it was drizzling.”

Clements asked for a sidebar and brought up a comment made at the Grand Jury hearing.  About the abuse in the family home.  Persecution objected, stating it happened too long ago to matter. “She’s lived with him for ten years without any trouble.” 

Judge Smith ordered the jury from the room. They wanted to know what Sharon was going to say, before the jury heard it.

Clements asked if he could proffer the question outside of the jury 

What Wayne then heard would resonate in his mind for the next twenty years. When Prosecutor Strain told them to “keep your voices down, the jury might hear you.” 

“Ms Lynch you knew that prior to 1998, your husband sexualy abused your daughter”


“As a matter of fact, he held a gun to her head and raped her.”

“That’s what she told me later.”

“How long had you known that?

“Since she was 15.”

When the jury returned, Clements asked Sharon a few more questions. The small crowd then watched in shock as the prosecutor asked Judge Smith if Sharon could be released from any further questioning: “She has to get back before (hurricane) Rita. ”

And that was that. Sharon stood up and walked out of the courtroom. She didn’t stay to watch Wayne testify, or hear the verdict for the murder of her late husband. 

After that, it was hard to know who heard what, or who could even process what was being said. As the next day when the trial resumed, the Pressley family came back and took their seats. At the first break, Wayne said that Doyle’s daughter Christy came up to the defense table and got his attention. “She asked me if I knew where her momma was, if Sharon was coming back.” Something so strange and yet heartbreaking. “Here I am the man supposed to have killed her father and she comes to me thinking I would know where Sharon is. Christy must have been sitting there waiting for Sharon to come back, but she was gone. Sharon left her in the dust, like she had done to me.”

The trial was too surreal to contemplate. Carrying on the rest of the trial when the one person who should be there had just left.

Wayne’s son John sat in the hallway.  Since he was going to be a witness, he  was not allowed to hear the testimony of his own mother. Only finding out later what she said. The insinuation that his father had been going after Sharon was just crazy in his mind. He thought how he too was fooled by the Pressley family, searching his memory of the time the two families had vacationed together. Wondering if there had been clues to such extreme abuse in the family. Remembering one time going over there and their daughter Christy was gone, trying to remember what they said was the reason.

 The whole thing was numbing, learning how his mother Patty testified against his father. “She had kept the promise I heard from her many times, that she would get even with daddy for divorcing her. But what they didn’t know was how hard daddy tried to help her as she got worse and worse. What she had done to me.”

Marlene Curtis was the only other witness to testify against Wayne. She said Wayne had asked her for an alibi. “Between her and my momma, the prosecution found the two craziest people in Grundy County to testify,” said Johnathan.

A defense witness who had been Curtis’ ex-husband’s lawyer, said they’d sued Curtis for custody when she refused visitation. Saying she had taped interviews of Curtis where she stated firmly she was married to God and God told her not to let her ex-husband see his children. Tapes are not allowed to be heard in court.

Asked how it was, that in all these years she had never told anyone that Wayne Grimes had asked her for an alibis until Sheriff Meeks approached her, she had no answer, other than to say she told her parents. As well as God.

Prosecutor Taylor remarked in closing how he wished he could have Sharon Pressley at the defense table, but he just didn’t have the evidence. Another incredible moment in court, as the prosecution had not argued an accomplice theory at trial. But the defense made no objection to this offhand remark. The prosecution was allowed to have it both ways. Allowing the jury to believe they were accomplices, at the same time her being an innocent victim. The truth being they would have had the evidence if they had listened to Wayne and talked with Heidi Williams.

Though Wayne had alibis that said where he was, the prosecution had done a good smear job on Wayne to make the jury forget that part. One of his alibis being his girlfriend he spent the night and morning of the murder with. The prosecutors made a lot of this since Wayne, though he was separated from his wife Patty, was still married. 

The jury came back after lunch at 1:12 PM and deliberated until 7:15 PM. When they sent a note out to the judge asking, “Will we be allowed to continue tonight or will we be forced to suspend at some point?”

 Strain: “You are not going to feed them for two weeks.”

 Judge Smith: “Or set up cots.”

In other words, no. 

An hour later , at 8:19 PM the jury came back with a guilty verdict for first-degree murder. They had painted the picture of Wayne as the monster.

 On Sept 23, 2005, Wayne Grimes was tried and convicted of murder. 


 In Groves’ statement to Larry Davis, Sharon said she was waiting at the motel for an hour, while Wayne went and killed Doyle.  While the TBI memo spelled out the the threat to Sharon to testify or be chagred with the murder. 

But while Sharon agreed to testify, significant modifications were made to the Groves’ story. One, Sharon would say, they were not lovers, but that Wayne was banging on her trailer doors and forced himself on her after Doyle was murdered. Despite everyone who saw Sharon Pressley ask Wayne to change her locks. And that it was Doyle’s brother Johnny banging on her doors wanting to know why she killed Doyle. It was not only in her statement, but in a police report from the indicent.

And two, they would change the story from her being in the motel room waiting for Wayne to shoot Doyle, to a new story: she would now say that Wayne left her a note saying “after you drop Doyle off to go hunting,  meet me at the motel.” So rather than her “waiting for Wayne to kill Doyle,”  she would be “surprised to hear Wayne shot Doyle.”  This way she could not be charged for the murder. As obviously, sitting in a motel room waiting for someone to kill their husband, is being a party to murder. But then of course, no such note ever existed.

She would also say that Doyle had always planned on going hunting and that Wayne Grimes knew this, and knew where he hunted, so he could find him and kill him. None of which was true, but that was their story.

Larry Davis testified that he never had evidence to charge Sharon Pressley.  But clearly something is missing, the negotiation between Pressley,  Davis and DA Mike Taylor.  The prosecution is required to give defense exculpatory material.Evidence that proves his innocence.  Certainly the story Sharon was being threatened to tell changing back and forth would be significant evidence that it was not true. Which is it? Sharon was in her home waiting for Wayne to kill her husband as spelled out in Grove’s book. Or that she was at Wayne’s Motel room waiting for him to kill him, as laid out in the statement’s to Davis. Or what she said at trial. The most ridiculous story of all. Saying she drove up to the motel and Wayne happened to be standing in the driveway. When she said Wayne knocked on the door, then got in and said “just drive.” Until they got down the road and he told her he shot Doyle.

If it had been known how the versions of Sharon’s story had passed from Groves to Larry Davis and DA Taylor like a script to a movie whose plot was always changing, surely no rational jury would have convicted him.

Steve Groves: “When I saw they had convicted Wayne Grimes, I read the transcripts and saw Sharon was lying. I knew I should have been there to testify. I probably was one of the few who knew Sharon and her children’s secrets—The extraordinary abuse that went on in the Pressley home before Doyle’s murder – motive for Sharon and her children, not for Wayne.  All of which I could see was not allowed to be heard at the trial.” 

Groves adds.

“The part where she said he got in the car and said just drive, that was exactly what she said her son Chris did at the Smokehouse. When she testified, I knew I had been lied to as well.”

When the jury was sent out of the room and attorney Paul Cross had Sharon say her daughter had been raped at gun point, Judge Smith ruled that since it happened 15 years ago it was not relevant and the jury would not be able to hear it. Counting in the seven year lag between the murder and the trial. It was actually nine years. The question though, was why Wayne’s lawyers did not present evidence of more recent abuse. A pattern of abuse.

Caroly Shippley, talks at her home in Palmer. A former mining town in Grundy County. A quiet woman, who has never wavered on her brother’s innocence, for good reason, she is upset she was never allowed to testify to what she heard Sharon say to her.

“It was at Reva’s funeral, this was about a year before it happened. I didn’t know Sharon, but when I walked out of the church, she followed me. She started talking about her husband and the things he’d done to her.  I was like whoa lady, I don’t want to be hearing these things. Around here you are better off  staying out of things, I see the people who do speak out are the ones who get in trouble. But anyway, she kept following me and telling me these things.

 “I told Paul Cross what Sharon told me, that she said the law would not do anything and she was going to kill her husband because of what he did. She was talking about her grandkids, and what she thought he was doing to them.”

Carolyn Land said she was the Grundy County social worker who handled the case. Land said the abuse started from when the Pressley daughter was around 4-6 years old, and she was removed from the home at the age of 12.  She said she handled the removal of the foster children as well, but didn’t give details to what happened.

If the lawyers had thought the testimony of a sister was weak, then why not bring up the man the entire case was based on,  Steve Groves. Who said he heard it straight out of the mouth of Sharon’s daughter Christy, that she would not allow Doyle to be around her kids alone. 

“That fight that happened over at the Pressley trailer before the murder that Wayne was wondering about, when he went and got Christi’s keys for her, Sharon told me that was when Christi put her foot down and said she wasn’t goin to allow Doyle over for Christmas. She didn’t trust him.”

But Groves was not called to testify.

“After all this had happened to the daughter, why would Sharon go along with it all those years?” I asked Groves. 

“ I have no idea. I felt bad for them. I told you when Sharon got here my brother and his friend came to help move the furniture into her new apartment, they both warned me she was a Black Widow. But it was deeper than that. I think this whole thing put those kids in a bad situation. 

How could they have not brought Heidi William to testify?  It would be hard to see how Sharon could survive it. How could she explain that she had lied from the beginning about their plan to be in Nashville on Sunday? 

But why had Davis not contacted her, or for that matter sought charges on Sharon from the beginning? Why had Wayne’s lawyers not contacted her.

Was there a reason the players of this folderol did not want Sharon Pressley charged? Was it because if they did, the abuse in the Pressley home would have to come out? When it would be known, without a doubt, who was responsible for putting a dangerous predator back in the home with his victims. Placing a time bomb in the community, with it only being a matter of time until it went off.