A forensic pathologist conducted a new autopsy on the body of a woman who was found dead in a vehicle following a chase and police officer-involved shooting. He concluded that the woman was killed by methamphetamine toxicity — not from being shot.
The Chase and Shooting
In December 2017, Toby Mike Holmes was working as a part-time deputy for Grundy County, Tennessee. While on duty, Holmes attempted to stop a Ford Mustang, but the driver failed to stop. A chase ensued.
A later investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation showed that the driver of the vehicle spun it around so that it was facing Deputy Holmes, at which time he fired at the vehicle. Holmes continued to fire at the vehicle as it sped past him.
The Mustang eventually crashed on the side of the road. A bystander reported the crash. When police responded to the scene, they found that the driver had fled. They also found the lifeless body of Shelby Comer, who was a passenger in the vehicle. She had been shot in the torso.
The driver of the vehicle, Jacky Wayne Bean, 32, was later apprehended. Bean was charged with attempted first-degree murder, evading arrest, and three counts of reckless endangerment. Deputy Toby Mike Holmes was charged with voluntary manslaughter. If convicted, Holmes faces up to six years in prison. Holmes was also placed on unpaid administrative leave and decommissioned by the sheriff’s office pending the outcome of his case.
The Original Autopsy
The original autopsy toxicology report found 3,400 nanograms per milliliter of methamphetamine in Comer’s body. However, it concluded that Comer died because of being shot in the torso.
The New Autopsy
Holmes’ defense team hired Forensic Pathologist Edward A. Reedy, Ph.D., M.D to review the autopsy of Shelby Comer. Dr. Reedy concluded that Comer may have already died before she was shot and disputed the original autopsy’s conclusion that said that Comer died by a gunshot wound to the torso.
Dr. Reedy opined that Comer didn’t lose enough blood for her death to have been caused by a gunshot wound. Dr. Reedy argued that gunshot wounds typically bleed “profusely” when there is enough blood pressure to sustain life. He noted that there was not enough blood found in the interior of the vehicle to indicate that Comer had adequate blood pressure when the shot was inflicted.
Dr. Reedy instead concluded that Comer’s death was caused by the amount of methamphetamine in her system, which was said was “within fatal levels.” Dr. Reedy opined that Comer was likely dead from methamphetamine toxicity before the bullet struck her.
Holmes’ defense team argued that he had not killed Comer; she had died of a methamphetamine overdose. Dr. Reedy testified to support this argument.
Despite Dr. Reedy’s testimony, the jury convicted Holmes of criminally negligent homicide. This was a lesser charge than the original reckless manslaughter charge that he faced. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April 3, 2020.