Nashville man accused of 2000 murder, man who served 15 years for the slaying set to be exonerated

tharpe
Source: Nashville Metro police; Unsplash

May. 29 2021, Published 4:34 p.m. ET

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A man who previously served 15 years behind bars for killing a Nashville woman in 2000 is set to be exonerated after police say they arrested the actual killer.

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This week, the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Cold Case detectives made an arrest in the June 2000 murder of Velma Tharpe, 30, who died from strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Tharpe worked as a sex worker at the time she was murdered.

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Calvin Atchison II, 51, was indicted by a grand jury, charging him with first-degree murder in connection to Tharpe's death.

Investigators reportedly learned of DNA evidence in the Tharpe case that implicated Atchison in the summer of 2011.

The MNPD believes that a man who was formerly convicted in Tharpe's homicide, Paul Garrett, 47, is innocent, according to a statement from the department. Garrett's plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter resulted in a sentence of 15 years. He was released from prison in December 2011.

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DNA from the scene never matched Garett and his case relied on his alleged confession to the crime, according to the Tennessean. Police now say that confession likely never happened.

In 2004, another possible suspect was identified after Virginia police made an arrest in another case, according to the Tennessean.

The paper reported that now-retired Sgt. Pat Postiglione testified in 2012 that the original investigation was not up to par. 

"I think when we did the follow-up on the case, we determined who the killer was. And why those other things happened, why he plead guilty, I can't explain that part. But Calvin Atchison ... we believe is the killer, not Paul Garrett," he said and the paper reported.

Atchison, who was taken into custody at his Apple Valley Circle home on May 25, is being held without bond.

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