Surviving suspect charged with murder in Cherry Bottom case

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By Joseph P. King II

JACKSBORO­—A Knoxville woman is charged with murder in the homicide investigation of Kenneth G. Koster and the other suspect is dead after being gunned down in a confrontation with the Pigeon Forge Police Department this weekend.

Monica Leigh-Ann Briggs, 36, of Knoxville, was charged, in Campbell County today with premeditated murder and felony first-degree murder in a hearing presided over by Judge Amanda Sammons.

Briggs is accused of putting a firearm into Koster’s left ear and pulling the trigger and stealing the victim’s wallet on or near Sept. 7. Koster’s body was recovered Sept. 8 near a Cherry Bottom residence. Briggs reportedly admitted her actions to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials during an interview, according to the charges read by Sammons.

Material evidence, including bloody articles of clothing, were also reportedly found in the vehicle used during Koster’s alleged murder, based on the court proceedings.

Briggs pleaded not guilty Monday and was assigned a public defender in the case.

District Attorney Jared Effler asked for Briggs’ bond to be set at $1 million. He said she is a flight risk because he said Briggs has two prior theft arrests in Knox County and has violated conditions of parole before. Sammons set Briggs’ bond at $750,000, an amount Effler later said is appropriate.

Briggs was apprehended Saturday night by authorities when Pigeon Forge Police officers approached her and another suspect in the case, James Bradley Phillips, 36, of Knoxville in the Wendy’s parking lot on the Pigeon Forge Parkway. After being approached a shootout occurred, which left Phillips dead. Briggs and Phillips were considered to be armed and dangerous, according to the alert issued by authorities.

TBI confirmed that Pigeon Forge officers fired at least one shot in the confrontation, but it is unclear what happened between the time the pair was approached and Phillips’ death. TBI has ordered an autopsy of Phillips’ shooting.

Campbell County Sheriff’s Office and TBI dispatched a warrant for questioning last Thursday after autopsy results of Koster’s body led investigators to treat the case as a homicide. Autopsy results found Koster had been shot in the head three times, according to the charges read by Sammons.

Briggs is set to appear in Campbell County General Sessions Court Tuesday.