January 6, 2014

Death of Chatsworth man under investigation

Rachel Brown

— Investigators with the Murray County Sheriff’s Office are looking into the circumstances surrounding a Christmas night altercation that left one person dead.

Tommy Walraven, 63, of Crandall, died Dec. 27 at Hamilton Medical Center. A day earlier, at about 4:30 a.m., a sheriff’s deputy found him beaten and unconscious lying on his girlfriend’s living room floor at her home on Smyrna Church Road. The deputy called for an ambulance.

According to an incident report, the deputy came to the home when the woman, Terry Welch, called authorities after Walraven and her son, 29-year-old John Dwight Phillips of Chatsworth, got into an argument. According to the report, Phillips told the deputy he had ordered Walraven to leave the house after the two began arguing over how Phillips was handling an issue with his wife, and that’s when Walraven grabbed a shotgun and pointed it at his stomach. Phillips said he began hitting Walraven in the face in self-defense.

The deputy wrote in his report he planned to charge Walraven for pointing a gun. Then Walraven died from his wounds, and the investigation continued.

Alcohol was involved, according to the report.

Sheriff Gary Langford said the investigation is ongoing and witnesses are still being interviewed. He declined to comment further. Walraven’s body was sent for an autopsy, and authorities have met with the District Attorney’s Office to discuss whether to charge anyone in the case. So far, they haven’t.

“We have talked, but it is an ongoing investigation,” District Attorney Bert Poston said.

Emily Cogburn, who said Walraven was her next-door neighbor for 20 years, is eager for investigators to get to the bottom of what happened and why there was a time lapse — at least several hours between when the argument started and when someone called 911, according to the incident report.

Cogburn said she listened to some of the events unfold over a scanner.

“I am so heartsick and sad,” she said. “He, or no one, deserved what happened to him.”

Welch didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment, and a phone number for Phillips could not be found.