November murder to go to grand jury

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- A Unicoi man charged in connection with the November murder of an Elizabethton woman was bound over to a grand jury last week after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing in Johnson City Sessions Court.
   Chris B. "Duck" Hamilton, 20, 1065 Pinnacle Rd., Unicoi, will appear in Washington County Criminal Court on April 6 to answer charges of accessory after the fact of murder and abuse of a corpse in the death of Cynthia J. Gourley, 40, of 134 Old State Line Rd..
   Gourley's body was found inside her vehicle Nov. 7, the day after she was killed. The car was parked in a rural section of Washington County off of Clarks Creek Road near the Unicoi County line. She had been shot in the head.
   Patricia A. Smith, 41, 3130 Zane Whitson Rd., Erwin, also faces charges of accessory after the fact of murder and abuse of a corpse in the case.
   Smith and Hamilton are accused of helping Smith's boyfriend, John Elliott Hicks, also of 1065 Pinnacle Rd., move Gourley's body from his home to the Sally Hole recreation area where agents of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency found her body early the next morning.
   According to reports, Smith, who was at Hicks' residence along with Hicks and Hamilton on the day Gourley was shot, gave investigators information about Hicks' and Hamilton's involvement in the crime and their whereabouts.
   Two days after Gourley's murder, investigators searched Hick's Unicoi residence. "While his house was under surveillance, two subjects attempted to leave. Unicoi County deputies initiated a traffic stop and the passenger of the vehicle (Hicks) fled," states a press release issued by Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal at the time of the incident. "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 handle Hicks' suicide.
   According to evidence presented at Smith's preliminary hearing, the four - Smith, Hicks, Hamilton and Gourley - were consuming alcohol at Hicks' residence when Gourley called him a derogatory name. At that point, according to information from the hearing, Hicks became belligerent, knocked Gourley to the floor, and punched her with his fists before shooting her once in the temple and once in the back of the head.
   "Cindy was crying out, 'I'm sorry. I was only playing with you,'" Smith told investigators. "I heard one gunshot. Cindy came walking out very fast, holding her head in her hand. She was bleeding from the face. Cindy ran to the bottom of the steps and fell. John grabbed her by the hair and beat her some more."
   Gourley broke free and ran toward her vehicle, and Hicks fired another shot at her and missed. Hicks then pushed her into the car, shot her again, then got in the driver's seat and instructed Smith and Hamilton to follow him in another car.
   Hicks left Gourley inside the vehicle at the location off of Clarks Creek Road, then fled the scene with Smith and Hamilton.