Smith Enters “No Contest” Plea In Trial for Death of Melissa Durham

An unexpected turn of events occurred on Thursday, August 8 in the case of the State of Tennessee vs Jonathan Donovan Smith, 48, of Morgan County, who was being tried on charges of 2nd Degree Murder and Aggravated Arson in connection with the 2017 death of Melissa Lynn Robbins Durham.

Mrs. Durham’s body was found in her burned residence at 1068 Maynard Lane in the Old Grimsley area of southern Fentress County on December 2, 2017.

Following an extensive investigation into the incident, Smith was indicted on February 28, 2018 by the Fentress County Grand Jury on one count of Second Degree Murder and one count of Aggravated Assault, after which he was incarcerated in the Fentress County  Jail and had remained in custody until the time of his trial last week.

Following 2-1/2 days of testimony in the trial, which began on Tuesday, August 6, a plea of nolo contendere,  or “no contest” was entered by the defense, and accepted by the prosecution.

Following the  conclusion of the trial, 8th Judicial District Attorney General Jared Effler issued the following statement:

“The trial of Jonathan Smith concluded with the defendant entering a nolo contendere plea and acknowledging that the evidence was sufficient to support his convictions of voluntary manslaughter and arson.  The defendant was sentenced to 10 years to be served in TDOC custody.  This agreement was entered only after consultation with and approval of law enforcement and the family of the victim.

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