Murder victim identified as Elizabethton woman; suspect commits suicide in chase

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Two Unicoi County residents have been arrested and charged in connection with the murder of a Carter County woman whose body was found Friday morning in Washington County and the prime suspect in her murder committed suicide during a foot pursuit with law enforcement officers.
   Chris B. Hamilton, 1065 Pennacle Road, Unicoi, and Patricia A. Smith, 3130 Zane Whitson Road, Erwin, have both been charged with accessory after the fact to murder and abuse of a corpse.
   According to Sheriff Ed Graybeal, investigators with the Washington County Sheriff's Department were investigating the murder of Cynthia L. Gourley, 40, of Elizabethton. Gourley, who had been shot in the head, was found in her vehicle on Clark's Creek Road in a rural part of the county near the Unicoi County line by agents of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
   During the course of the investigation, according to information from Graybeal, investigators developed a suspect early Saturday morning in Unicoi County and began surveillance on the suspect's residence. "John Elliott Hicks, 1065 Pennacle Road, Unicoi, was the prime suspect in Gourley's murder," states a press release from the Washington County Sheriff's Department. "While his house was under surveillance, two subjects attempted to leave. Unicoi County deputies initiated a traffic stop and the passenger in the vehicle (Hicks) fled.
   "During the foot pursuit, deputies heard a single gunshot and found the body of Hicks in a wooded area near his home."
   Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris has requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to handle the suicide of Hicks.
   According to the press release, investigators from the Washington County and Unicoi County Sheriff's Departments processed Hicks' residence and recovered evidence from the murder as well as towing one vehicle to the Washington County Sheriff's Department for further processing.