Daughter Reacts To Arrest In 33 Year Old Cold Case - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Daughter Reacts To Arrest In 33-Year-Old Cold Case

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Pearl Ethel Hethcote Pearl Ethel Hethcote
Freddie Johnson Freddie Johnson
Norma Vandervort. Norma Vandervort.

by Mark Bellinger

DICKSON, Tenn.- Thirty three years is a long time to wait for just about anything. It's even longer when you're waiting for police to tell you who killed your mother, but Metro Cold Case detectives have finally solved the case.

72-year-old Pearl Ethel Hethcote was killed back in 1979 and police just recently discovered the man who murdered her.

As it turns out the man police arrested was working in the victim's home.

"My mother was my best friend," said the victim's daughter, 73-year-old Norma Vandervort.

It was not unusual for Vandervort to spend an hour on the phone talking with her mom.  She said Pearl Hethcote was close to a lot of people.
"Mother was such a kind, patient and loving woman.   She loved everybody," said Vandervort.

On January 29, 1979 Vandervort would talk to her mother for the last time. Hethcote lived on Radford Drive near the Nashville Airport.

"She was getting ready to have her breakfast and watch Merv Griffith, somebody," said her daughter.

Later that day someone strangled her.

"Oh, it was such a shock.  I had just talked to my mother that morning.  I was on the phone with her in just a casual conversation for an hour and it must have been right before that happened," said Vandervort.
Metro Police investigated.  They thought Pearl knew her killer, because there was no forced entry. No arrests were made, and eventually Metro Cold case detectives took over.

"In this case I was able to review the case file and I saw some potential there.  So, we got into the case file and located some people, we did some interviewing, we looked at some of the physical evidence, and that's typically how we do it," said Sergeant Pat Postiglione.
Monday police arrested 60 year old Freddie Lee Johnson, who is a registered sex offender with multiple convictions. He was working at the Pearl's home when she was killed.
Yes, he and another man, because they were doing insulation on the TVA energy survey, because mother's electric bills were so high," said Vandervort.
A man some family members knew all along, and now they may know him as their mother's killer.  Freddie Johnson has been charged with more than 50 offenses in Nashville. He is a registered sex offender.
Johnson was convicted of rape in Mississippi in 1979, the same year Pearl Hethcote was killed. He is scheduled to appear in criminal court for the first time next Wednesday.

Email: mbellinger@newschannel5.com
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