Home » Body of Robbery Suspect Recovered, Other Suspect Charged with First Degree Murder

Body of Robbery Suspect Recovered, Other Suspect Charged with First Degree Murder

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A mystery that began on March 3rd involving the disappearance of a man fleeing from police in Clifton has been solved. The Clifton Police Department released information last week confirming that the body of the suspect who had fallen into the Tennessee River after allegedly burglarizing Willoughby Drugs was found washed up onto the riverbank in Decatur County, TN.

Early on Thursday morning, March 2nd, Clifton Police Officer Jeff Horner was notified of a possible burglary in process at Willoughby Drugs, a pharmacy located on Main Street in Clifton. Officer Horner was able to respond to the call in minutes. When he arrived on the scene, he saw two men exit the building and run. The suspects ran toward the Tennessee River, and reportedly fell into the river due to their unfamiliarity with the area.

A short while later, Lt. Timmy Harris of the Clifton Police Department was called to Country Girls Truck Stop to investigate a man walking down the highway wearing nothing but his underwear, a t-shirt, and socks. He was soaking wet and had obvious bruises and knee injuries. The man was identified as Cortez Deon Amison, age 21, of Bessemer, AL. Amison was arrested on charges of aggravated burglary, evading arrest, and indecent exposure. He was booked into the Wayne County Jail and released on $61,000.00 bond.

Clifton Police Chief Steve Wilson said that officers from Clifton and many other agencies including Wayne County, Decatur County, and TWRA responded to the scene in record time to begin the search for the remaining suspect. “The river was at flood stage at the time this happened, with extremely high water and currents of six to seven miles per hour,” said Chief Wilson. “All officers who responded to help with this situation spent hours over the next several days both diving into the river and searching by boat to find the second suspect,” Chief Wilson continued.

Chief Wilson said that the pharmacy robbery was certainly a major incident, and investigators began promptly trying to find out exactly what happened. However, as Chief Wilson said, the search for the remaining suspect took priority over everything. “Anytime something like this happens, something that involves a missing person, we make it our main priority to locate them.”

Chief Wilson said that a large amount of narcotics was stolen from the pharmacy, resulting in Amison ultimately being charged with theft up to $10,000. Miraculously, Chief Wilson said, all the pills were recovered either on the banks of the river or hung up in brush near the river. He said that many of them were still in large bottles, with some of the bottles in a backpack.

Search teams searched the Tennessee River for several days in an attempt to locate the second suspect. After two weeks with nothing found, Chief Wilson said that a man walking along the riverbank looking for arrowheads in Decatur County came upon the body of a man later identified as Jermaine Groom, 33 years old, from Birmingham, AL. Groom was later confirmed to be the second man seen running away from Willoughby Drugs. It is believed that he fell into the river along with Cortez Amison, and is assumed to have drowned. Chief Wilson stated that the official autopsy report has not yet been released, so the official cause of death has not been released. The assumption of drowning does not rule out the possibility of other injuries Groom may have sustained.

On May 5th, 2023, Cortez Amison was charged with theft of property and felony murder. The arrest warrant stated that Jermaine Groom died as a result of Groom and Amison fleeing from the burglary and theft, both traveling to Clifton from Birmingham, Alabama to commit the crime.

As Chief Wilson explained, Tennessee law states that if two people conspire and commit a crime and one of them dies as a result of committing the crime, the surviving individual will be charged with first degree murder. He said that even if the individual charged did not actually do anything physically to the deceased, he will still be charged in compliance with the law.

Chief Wilson said that he considers this situation to be a tragedy. Although the pharmacy robbery was a major crime, anytime a loss of life takes place it overshadows everything else. He asked that everyone remember the family of Jermaine Groom and the pain they are suffering as a result of his death.

Cortez Amison is currently being held in the Wayne County Jail with no bond.

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