Woman Charged in 1979 Murder Of Roommate, Business Partner - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Woman Charged in 1979 Murder Of Roommate, Business Partner

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Christel Ann Perkins Christel Ann Perkins
Jorja L. Walter Jorja L. Walter
Jorja L. Walter Jorja L. Walter

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Thirty years after what appeared to be an accidental death of a Rutherford County woman, investigators re-opened the case and made an arrest.

On Monday, deputies arrested 62-year-old Christel Ann Perkins and charged her with the murder of 30-year-old Jorja Walter in April 1979.

Lt. Bill Sharpe said he came across the case file last year. Walter died from a gun shot wound to the head at a homeon Manson Pike (now Medical Center Parkway) where the two women lived, along with Perkins' 12-year-old son, just outside Murfreesboro city limits at the time.

The only witnesses to the shooting were Perkins and her son. After an investigation, Walter's death was ruled accidental.

Cold case detectives reopened Walter's file and spent the past four months traveling from Rutherford County to her hometown in West Liberty, Kentucky. Walter's body was exhumed to search for physical evidence, and additional witnesses were subpoenaed and interviewed.

Rutherford County cold case detectives felt certain upon further review that Walter's death was in fact a murder.

"It became apparent that the physical evidence did not jibe with the statements that were given more than 31 years ago," said Dan Goodwin with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department.

The two women were roommates, friends and business partners at the time in Rutherford County.

Three decades later, Perkins was arrested jailed with no bond. Since Walter's death, Perkins has remained in Murfreesboro and owns a cleaning company.

Neighbors told NewsChannel 5 she was always helpful and pleasant and are shocked to hear about her arrest.

"I was shocked, I was really shocked. She is a business owner in town, flies the local university flag, they've been great neighbors," said Mike Donovan, who lives behind Perkins in a quiet neighborhood in West Murfreesboro.

Walters was survived by her older brother who lives in Kentucky. He told NewsChannel 5 by phone that he is happy to hear justice is being served in his sister's death. His family never believed it was an accident and he and his father, a circuit court judge in Kentucky, spent years trying to get the case re-opened. He wishes his father was still alive to see the arrest of Perkins.

Both Perkins and Walter were from West Liberty, Kentucky but had lived in Murfreesboro for several years at the time of the crime.

Perkins is scheduled to be in court on November 15.

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