UPDATE: Pittman case sent to grand jury in October

Photo by Katherine Burgess
Charlie Pittman, a former senior Christian ministries major, appears in City Court July 10 for his preliminary hearing.

City Court Judge Blake Anderson determined July 10 that Charlie Pittman’s case will be sent to a grand jury in October.

Pittman, a former senior Christian ministries major who would have graduated in May, is charged with first degree murder in the death of his fiancée, Olivia Greenlee, who was a senior music education major. He is also charged with tampering with evidence.

If indicted by the grand jury in October, a trial would occur in 2015.

Pittman was last in court Feb. 27 when a mental health evaluation was requested. George Googe, Pittman’s public defender, said Pittman was found competent.

The preliminary hearing included testimony from Investigator Ron Pugh of the Jackson Police Department and Ryan Keaton, a May graduate of Union who was Pittman’s roommate.

Joshua Cox, another of Pittman’s roommates, and Rusty Tuders, the Safety and Security officer who discovered Greenlee’s body, were called as witnesses but did not testify.

Pittman’s parents were present in the courtroom and Greenlee’s family and friends were ushered in through the back of the building.

Assistant District Attorney Shaun Brown said in the hearing that Pittman took the gun from his roommate, showing premeditation.

“It’s the state’s position that the defendant took the gun, had all this planned out, did the act, sent the text messages and then did all this to cover it up,” Brown said.

Googe said he does not normally bring in evidence for the defense at the preliminary hearing.

“We’ve just heard one side of the story here from the state,” he said.

Greenlee was found dead Feb. 12 in her 2001 Toyota Corolla in the parking lot behind Luther Hall, an auxiliary building on Union’s campus. A 9mm handgun was found inside the locked car, and the preliminary cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head, according to the affidavit of complaint read at Pittman’s arraignment.

Pittman and Greenlee were engaged to marry this August.

The investigator

Pugh testified that he was called to the scene of Greenlee’s death after 8 a.m. Feb. 12. Greenlee’s body was in the driver’s seat covered in blood and a black handgun was wedged between the seat and the console.

“The first thing that looked suspicious to me, though, was on the passenger side door on the lock and the handle, there were blood smears over there,” Pugh said. “Obviously someone had been in the vehicle.”

The location of the gun was also inconsistent with a suicide scene, Pugh said. If Greenlee had fired the gun she would have lost control as it recoiled. This would have tossed the gun backward, not wedging it between the seat and console.

Brown also said there was no soot surrounding the wound, consistent with a non-contact shot.

At the hospital later that day Pugh met with Pittman and learned he was the last person to have seen Greenlee the night before.

Pittman wrote and signed a statement saying Greenlee had dropped him off after eating dinner at Quiznos.

Pugh read the statement in which Pittman wrote that Greenlee had been depressed due to failing her Praxis exam, meaning she would postpone graduation for another semester. Pittman wrote that five days prior Greenlee had said, “I wish I could drive away and end my life.”

In the statement, Pittman wrote that his roommate Cox owned a 9mm gun and that Greenlee had used the bathroom in Cox’s room earlier, giving her an opportunity to find it.

Pugh said he spoke with Pittman on Feb. 14 at his apartment, asking what he had worn at Quiznos. Pittman showed Pugh a white jacket, but security video from Quiznos showed Pittman wearing a black jacket with camouflage, Pugh said.

Pugh saw the black jacket freshly laundered and folded on Pittman’s bed. When he told Pittman they needed to talk about inconsistencies, he pointed at the jacket.

“It’s the only time in my time with Charlie that he showed any emotion, and he cried,” Pugh said. “The minute I pointed at the jacket, he cried.”

Pugh testified that he and Pittman went to the police station where Pittman gave him a second statement. That recording was played in court.

The recording

In the recording, Pittman told Pugh that Greenlee had asked him to get Cox’s gun two weeks prior to her death. Pittman said he refused.

Pittman told Pugh that Greenlee said if he did not give her the gun, he would find her dead with a slit throat or a pill overdose.

“I tried, tried to reason with her, saying ‘This is not you, this is not you thinking,’” Pittman said in the recording. “I know you want to end your life, but that’s not the answer.”

In the recording, Pittman said before going into Quiznos he found the gun in the glove compartment of her car and took it, planning to get rid of it.

Pittman said that after eating they went to Luther Hall, a place that had been special to both of them.

Pittman said there she begged him for the gun, with him initially saying no.

In the recording, Pittman then said he thought of times when he had been depressed.

“I remember feeling that way on my own, feeling if I ended my life I’d be happy,” Pittman said. “I loved Olivia so much. More than anybody. I thought maybe if she does do this she’ll finally feel the joy that comes with Christ.”

Pittman said he put the gun on the floorboard, then closed his eyes, prayed and screamed as Greenlee shot herself. Afterward he said he panicked, afraid police would think he had killed her.

“I am so sorry I didn’t call you guys earlier,” Pittman told Pugh. “I wish I would have called you in the car at that time. I wish I would have called you before, said ‘Hey, my fiancée’s suicidal, would somebody come take her away and put her somewhere where she won’t do this.’”

After the recording was played in court, Pugh said, “This is a lie.”

Googe objected to Pugh’s judgment, saying witnesses cannot determine whether someone is guilty.

The passenger seat, Pugh said, was covered in blood. If Pittman had been in the seat, the blood would not have reached it.

Pugh also there was no blood on the passenger door except for the lock and handle, consistent with the door being open and the shooter standing outside, later closing and locking the door.

The roommate

Keaton, now a youth pastor, testified last.

On both the day Greenlee went missing and the day her body was found, Pittman seemed calm, Keaton said.

“He seemed really calm, kind of, I don’t know,” Keaton said. “We thought he was just in shock or something.”

Greenlee was roommates with his girlfriend, Rebecca Scott, Keaton said.

Keaton said he shared a room with Cox, but did not know where Cox kept his gun. Keaton also said he never saw Greenlee go into his room, although she was familiar with the layout of the apartment.

On the night of Feb. 11 Pittman had gone to Greenlee’s apartment and found Scott and Keaton, asking them to call Greenlee, Keaton said. Pittman told them that Greenlee had left him in the parking lot and driven away upset.

They called her but got no response. Eventually Pittman and Keaton drove around Jackson and campus looking for Greenlee. Pittman drove, and the two remained on the side of campus closest to Fraternity Row, Keaton said.

Keaton suggested that Pittman call Greenlee’s parents, which he did. Her parents came from Dyersburg to look for her.

Keaton said Pittman had told him not to tell others about Greenlee missing.

When the police told Keaton that Greenlee’s body had been found Feb. 12, he went to the hospital and found Pittman. He seemed to be in a “shocked state” with “not really much emotion at all,” Keaton said.

About Katherine Burgess 70 Articles
Katherine Burgess, a class of 2015 journalism alumna, is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Cardinal & Cream. Her journalism has taken her from a United Nations Tribunal to the largest maximum security prison in the United States to Capitol Hill. She is now the Education Reporter for the Jackson Sun. Follow her on Twitter @kathsburgess