August 12, 1984
Jeanne Bickner is kidnapped, tied to a tree, and set on fire
Bickner had met Joe Elton Nixon in a mall parking lot when he asked for help jumpstarting his car. When they were unsuccessful, Bickner offered Nixon a ride home. During the trip, Nixon forced Bickner to a remote location and tied her to two pine trees with jumper cables. According to his confession, Nixon strangled Bickner before lighting her body on fire. The medical examiner in charge of Bickner’s case, however, determined she had died as a result of the burns. He then stole Bickner’s car.
Bickner’s charred remains were discovered the next day, her body found in a seated position with jumper cables tied around her waist connecting her to one tree while her left arm was tied to another. Bickner’s stolen car was found August 14, also set on fire.
Nixon confessed the murder to his brother and girlfriend who then notified police. Evidence linking him to the murder included Nixon’s palm print on Bickner’s trunk and a receipt from a pawn shop for two of Bickner’s stolen rings.
At trial, Nixon’s attorneys did not try to establish his innocence but rather argued as to why he didn’t deserve the death penalty, hoping the confession would stir sympathy within the jurors. The tactic was unsuccessful and Nixon was found guilty and sentenced to death. He is currently on death row.