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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 7, 2009
Date of birth: November 1, 1982
Victim profile: Carolyn Ward, 61
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Chester County, Tennessee, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on May 23, 2011

John T. Freeland Jr. was sentenced to death for the 2009 murder of a Chester County woman he kidnapped and shot on a deserted lane in Pinson.


Freeland motions denied by judge

August 3, 2011

A Madison County Judge has denied several motions filed by attorneys for John T. Freeland Jr., including a motion for a new trial and one to set aside the death penalty.

Freeland was convicted of first-degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence earlier this year in the slaying of Carolyn Ward, 61, in Henderson. Madison County Circuit Judge Roy Morgan Jr. made the ruling after a three-day bench trial in January.

Morgan sentenced Freeland to death by lethal injection for the 2009 murder of Ward, who was kidnapped and shot on a deserted lane in Pinson.

Freeland filed motions for a new trial, for a judgment of acquittal and to set aside the death penalty, according to court records.

In an Aug. 1 ruling, Morgan said that the evidence proven at the trial was sufficient to sustain Freeland's convictions.

In his motion for a new trial, Freeland said the court erred in admitting his statements to police. He argued that the statements were given without the advice of counsel and that he was confused as to the purpose of the statements. But Morgan ruled that Freeland was properly informed of his rights and voluntarily waived those rights before making statements to police.

Freeland also challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty. He asserted in the motion that the penalty in this case amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

But Morgan said he would not change the sentence.

"This court stands by its earlier finding that the statutory aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt," Morgan's ruling states in part.

The ruling said the punishment in Freeland's case is similar to the punishment imposed by Tennessee courts in other cases involving the kidnapping and murder of a victim.

Authorities said Freeland and Marcus Thompson, 40, kidnapped Ward on March 7, 2009, outside a Henderson grocery store. Freeland then shot her in the head while she lay in a ditch, and the two stole her car, investigators have said.

Evidence included video surveillance that showed Freeland approaching Ward in the parking lot of a Fred's store on March 7, 2009.

Surveillance from Fred's and surrounding stores showed Freeland and Thompson following Ward's vehicle in a blue Buick Roadmaster.

After searching Freeland's car, police found a gun, a blue bandana, a black bandana, two pairs of gloves, a black skull cap, and a black ski mask. Gunshot residue was found on both pairs of gloves. Freeland's fingerprints were also found on the back of Ward's license plate recovered from the area where her vehicle had been burned.

Authorities have said analysis of the gun and cartridge cases found near Ward's body showed that the cartridge case was fired from the gun in Freeland's car.

Police have said Freeland also gave a statement admitting his participation in Ward's kidnapping and murder. And that he also admitted to burning Ward's vehicle.


Man sentenced to death in murder, kidnapping

May 24, 2011

John T. Freeland Jr. will be executed by lethal injection for the 2009 murder of a Chester County woman he kidnapped and shot on a deserted lane in Pinson, a judge ruled Monday.

Madison County Circuit Judge Roy Morgan Jr. sentenced the 28-year-old to death for the first-degree murder and kidnapping of Carolyn Ward, 61.

Before delivering the sentence, Morgan cited "aggravating circumstances" such as Freeland's past conviction of a violent felony and his substantial role in Ward's killing. "May God have mercy on your soul," Morgan said.

Freeland, who is in custody on a 12-year sentence for robbery, also was sentenced Monday to 25 years for tampering with evidence and especially aggravated kidnapping in Ward's case.

According to authorities, Freeland and Marcus Thompson, 40, kidnapped Ward on March 7, 2009, outside a Henderson grocery store. Freeland then shot her in the head while she lay in a ditch, and the two stole her car, investigators have said.

Tashundra Mosley, 29, is set to testify in Thompson's September murder trial before she is sentenced on charges of facilitating first-degree murder, facilitating especially aggravated kidnapping, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence.

Thompson faces the same charges as Freeland, but the state is not requesting the death penalty in his case.

Assistant District Attorney Jody Pickens said Freeland picked Ward as a victim because he viewed her as easy prey for stealing a car to use for other robberies.

A Jackson police sergeant testified Monday that Freeland said he killed Ward because she saw his and Thompson's faces.

Pickens said Ward was no physical threat to the pair.

"She gave freely of herself, gave her time, her concern, not just to her family," he said during closing arguments Monday.

Several people testified about Ward, saying she was a caring person.

Her nurse likened Ward to a character from "The Andy Griffith Show."

"If anybody were to close their eyes and think about (Ward), they would think about Aunt Bee the sweetest, most giving person God could create," Rhonda Hunt said.

A principal at an elementary school where Ward volunteered said she tutored children and bought clothing items for kids in need. The 300 children at the school affectionately called her "Granny," said Jimmy Dyer, the now-retired principal of West Chester Elementary School in Henderson.

"She had a great influence on all of us," he said. "She was either a mother figure or grandmother figure to all of us in that building."

Among Monday's witnesses for the defense were Freeland, his mother, stepfather and brother. Her mother went through his childhood pictures and school report cards.

His family said he Freeland was outgoing, involved in athletics and church, and respectful.

His mother and stepfather said they noticed a change after he moved out of their home, not too long before Ward's death.

"After he moved from home, he had a personality change, and (I) had no idea who he was hanging around," said his mother, Renee Johnson.

In his testimony, Freeland apologized for letting Thompson use his car the day Ward died but said he was not there when she was murdered. He denied parts of previous statements he made to police and said he only had details about the case after hearing them from Thompson.

"I just wanted to speak to my family and loved ones as well as the family of Mrs. Ward and express my apologies for the entire situation," he said. "I just wanted to basically say I'm sorry for any and everything, the hurt, the pain."

Freeland's attorney, Angela Hopson, said during Monday's hearing that testimony shows Freeland came from a stable home and he should be allowed to live so his family including two children can visit him in prison.

"He's taking it as well as you can expect," she said. "It doesn't get any worse than this, but he's staying positive."

A motion for a new trial will be made July 22 in Morgan's courtroom.

Hopson said during Monday's hearing that Freeland was under the control of Thompson, who she said coaxed Freeland into robbing a Dollar General Store two days before Ward's death.

District Attorney General Jerry Woodall thanked sheriff's offices in Chester County and Madison County, the Henderson and Jackson police departments and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for their help in the case.

"I think the (outcome) was based on the facts, well reasoned and appropriate," he said following the sentencing.



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