2nd defendant from Massengill murder case pleads guilty

Published 6:08 pm Monday, September 19, 2022

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A second defendant in the Aaron Massengill murder case pleaded guilty today in Claiborne Criminal Court. Patrick Smith, 28, was charged with one count each of second-degree murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. Smith was convicted to second degree murder and handed a sentence of 45 years at 100 percent in prison.

The ‘ringleader’, Courtney Gilpin, was the first of the three defendants to take a plea bargain. Gilpin was convicted on Aug. 5 of felony murder and robbery charges and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

The third defendant, Jimmy Lee Riffe, will be facing first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery if he foregoes a plea agreement in favor of a murder trial. As of press time, Riffe is scheduled for a Nov. 7 court date.

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Massengill went missing during the overnight hours of Feb. 16, 2021. His body was found along a stretch of ditch on Ferguson Ridge Road in Claiborne County six days later, on Feb. 22.

An extensive manhunt included walking grids made up of law enforcement alongside scores of volunteers and the use of helicopters, airplanes and even a drone to locate the missing man.

Attorney General Jared Effler described the events of the kidnapping and murder of the victim during Gilpin’s court proceedings. Effler said the three defendants had lured Massengill to a home on the pretext of having him drive Gilpin to a local fast-food restaurant. Instead, Massengill was met with plans to steal his truck, a 1991 Nissan pickup, and any money and belongings on him.

According to Effler, Massengill was engaged in a brief struggle between Smith and Jimmy Riffe in which a cylindrical object was used to hit him twice on the head.

Effler said that, according to the evidence, Smith grabbed Massengill from behind in a type of bear hug/choke hold. The brief struggle ended abruptly when Gilpin delivered the killing blow as she grabbed a gun and shot Massengill in the chest.

The trio then wrapped his body in a green blanket and transported him to the drop off site on Ferguson Ridge Road.