Bridge on rural Yancey County road a key clue in catching murder suspects

A tip helped lead Det. Brian Shuford, of the Yancey County Sheriff's Office, to Donovan Hargis and Jamie Nunley, who were wanted for first-degree murder and felony abuse of a corpse. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Det. Brian Shuford, of the Yancey County Sheriff's Office, was wrapping up his workday Wednesday when the phone rang about 6:45 p.m.

There was no way Shuford was going home after hearing what the Tennessee detective on the other end of the phone had to say.

"They had gotten a new lead. They had interviewed a witness and determined through that witness that the suspects may be in Yancey County," Shuford said.

The suspects they were looking for -- 23-year-old Donovan Hargis and 40-year-old Jamie Nunley -- were wanted for first-degree murder and felony abuse of a corpse. The investigator told Shuford the pair had been on the run for months.

A tipster told Grundy County (Tennessee) investigators the couple had been dropped off on U.S. 19 West in Yancey County and were possibly staying near a 60-foot bridge.

Shuford knew where to look.

"About two and a half miles down 19 West, there's a road named Langford Branch. There is a large bridge at the intersection of 19 West and Langford Branch," he said.

Shuford and three investigators from the sheriff's department started knocking on doors. At a nearby home that had a pop-up camper, they got a hit. The homeowner told authorities a couple had been staying on his property after telling him a story several days ago.

"He said they seemed down on their luck, and he wanted to help them out," Shuford said.

The man had no idea the two had been running from the law in Tennessee.

Authorities said the victim, 35-year-old Dylan Winton, had been shot three times in the head and once in the back. That was months ago, and police in Tennessee had been working the case since. Winton's family said he suffered from schizophrenia and had the mental capacity of a 13-year-old.

"He was a good human being in so many ways," said Ray Winton, Dylan's Uncle. "His greatest fault was he wanted someone to like him."

Shuford said officers had their guns drawn before approaching the camper. He had been told the couple had guns in their possession. He said Nunley came out first, not knowing police were outside. Both suspects were taken into custody.

Shuford said neither said anything. Both waived extradition in court Thursday, and deputies from Tennessee are expected to transport them back for trial in the next several days.

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