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Last of three charged in the death of Tazewell Tn man pleads guilty - receives 35 year sentence

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

From WRIL - The Big One -

On Friday, December 8, 2023, the last of three defendants connected to the murder of a Tazewell man, 28-year-old Aaron Jeremiah Massengill of Claiborne County, in 2021 plead guilty in Claiborne County Criminal Court.

36-year-old Jimmy Lee Riffe was in court in front of Judge Zachary Walden for his role in the disappearance and death of Massengill after he had been reported missing February 16, 2021.

The investigation spanned several counties in East Tennessee, including Sullivan County, and reached into Middlesboro, Ky. His body was discovered February 22, 2021 along Ferguson Ridge Road. An autopsy revealed that Massengill died as a result of a gunshot wound.

During the course of the hearings Attorney General Jared Effler said that Gilpin had lured Massengill to a residence so she could have him drive her to a restaurant. Unfortunately, Massengill was met by 26-year-old Patrick Andrew Smith and 23-year-old Courtney L. Gilpin, and Jimmy Riffe so they could steal his truck, money, and personal effects.

The Attorney General also stated that Massengill briefly fought with Smith and Riffe when he was struck in the head twice with a cylindrical object. Additionally, Smith grabbed Aaron from behind choking him and shortly afterward Gilpin shot him in the chest killing him.

The trio was indicted and all faced a count each of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Courtney Gilpin, plead guilty on Aug. 5, 2022, for her role in the murder and received a 50-year prison sentence. Patrick Smith plead guilty to second-degree murder on February 20, 2023, receiving 45 years in prison. GIlpin has since filed a PCR ( post conviction relief motion) in an attempt to overturn her plea agreement. There is another hearing on that motion scheduled for December 19th.

After a motion for a change of venue was denied in an earlier court appearance, Jimmy Riffe plead guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery with an effective 35 year prison sentence.

The plea agreements were approved by Aaron Massengill's family.

The Tazewell Police, Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department worked in conjunction to find Smith, Gilpin, and Riffe and charge them with Massengill’s death.

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