East Tennessee inmate 1 of 9 to get execution dates for 1992 killings


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – In just over two decades, Gary Wayne Sutton has spent nearly half of his life on Tennessee’s death row. This week, Tennessee’s attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court to set execution dates for nine death row prisoners, bucking a national movement away from capital punishment.

Sutton is one of nine included on that list for the 1992 murder of Tommy Griffin.

Griffin, 24, was found in February 1992 near an embankment of the Little River in Walland, shot in the back of the head with a shotgun. His body, found two days after he was last seen.

The same day Griffin’s body was found, his mother filed a missing persons report for his sister, Connie Branam.

Branam was found days later in her car, her body inside, found by residents near the Happy Hollow area of Wears Valley in Sevier County.

At the time, WATE 6 On Your Side reports showed Blount County and Sevier County law enforcement were working together to link multiple crimes: Griffin’s murder, Branam’s murder, and Griffin’s trailer fire, which investigators reported at the time was started by hand.

The investigation led to James Henderson Dellinger and his nephew, Gary Wayne Sutton.

According to WATE 6 On Your Side reports at the time, Griffin was last seen with Dellinger and Sutton when they posted his bond on public intoxication charges.

Two trials, one in Blount County and one in Sevier County, ultimately found Dellinger and Sutton guilty. In Blount County, for the murder of Griffin, death setences; in Sevier County, for the murder of Connie, life in prison.

James Dellinger. (Photo: TDOC)

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