Subscribe for 99¢

HOHENWALD, Tenn. - Detective Tony Grasson thought he was about to take a deathbed confession when he visited a hospital last month to talk to a man on the run from a murder charge since 1977.

James Brewer, 58, was lying in a hospital bed in Shawnee, Okla., struggling to speak after suffering two strokes within a year. A relative of Brewer's had told authorities that he might be ready to talk about a fatal shooting more than three decades ago in Tennessee, a crime with which Brewer had been charged.

Brewer stopped short of saying he'd committed a crime. But he agreed to return to Tennessee to face a first-degree murder charge. Now he is in a central Tennessee jail, awaiting a judge's decision today on whether to release him on bond.

The family of the victim, Jimmy Carroll - who authorities say Brewer was suspicious of because he thought Carroll was having a relationship with his wife - says Brewer deserves no sympathy.

Authorities say James and Dorothy Brewer left Tennessee for Oklahoma and haven't seen or talked to family since. Their return to Tennessee has opened old wounds for the victim's family, who blame both Brewers for Carroll's death.

Lewis County Sheriff Dwayne Kilpatrick said the shooting happened when Brewer found out about the affair and confronted Carroll at a service station on April 27, 1977.

The original police report says Brewer shot Carroll twice, then drove off and left him to die, Kilpatrick said.

Shortly before Brewer was to stand trial, he and his wife disappeared.

They lived for a short time in Nashville before heading to Texas. In Texas, Brewer began using another name, Michael Anderson, and was able to get a new Social Security number, which was easier to do in the 1970s, Kilpatrick said. Dorothy went by her maiden name, Powers, he said.

Carroll's family members say they feel like they've been given a second chance for justice. They want charges filed against Dorothy Brewer for what they say was her role in the shooting and for helping her husband hide from authorities.

Dorothy Brewer was charged by police in 1977 but the grand jury never indicted her, according to Kilpatrick.