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Case Closed?: Family members raise concerns about 88-year-old man's death

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN - Nearly one year ago, 88-year-old Wayne Hicks died after investigators with the Sullivan County Sheriff's office say he suffered injuries after falling from a 6 foot retaining wall. 

In the days fallowing Hicks' death family members voiced concerns saying they believe Hicks' injuries proved that something else may have happened to him. 

Pictures of Hicks in the hospital after his injuries, show a man clinging to life. 88-year-old Wayne Hicks was found bruised and broken after being found shortly after 7:00 AM in August 1st of 2017 in a neighbors driveway on Begley Street blocks away from his own home on Bell Street. 

Family members say Hicks was on oxygen and rarely left his home. How did he end up in that driveway? What caused these injuries that would ultimately lead to his death. 

Wayne Hicks' granddaughter Susan Wampler wants answers. 

"My goal is to figure out what happened to him, to take him from us and to bring those people to justice," Susan Wampler said. 

A photo from her grandfather's 88th birthday party last year shows how Susan remembers the man affectionately known to many as  "Pap-ah"

"My grandfather was a wonderful man, he loved his family, loved his community and for all intense and purposed he was a well man," Susan Wampler said. 

"Her family wants answers, they deserve that," Lee Douglas said. 

Former Sullivan County Sheriff's deputy Lee Douglass met with Wampler after she had suspicions surrounding her grandfathers death. 

"She told me there was a blood trial what she thought was a blood trail, I did find that, I was not able to test that i have 10 years of law enforcement experience, I've seen blood on the road before, I know what blood looks like, that was blood." 

According to the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office, Douglass was fired for insubordination. He says his termination is in relation to work he put in on the "Hicks" case. 

Douglass and Susan Wampler believe that after Hicks left his home on Bell street, he was then hit by a vehicle here on Begley Street. They believe, Hicks, bruised and bloody from an encounter with that vehicle. Somehow was dropped off in the drive-way near the 6 foot wall and was deserted by an unknown suspect. 

Lee Douglas said, "I believe that based on the blood pooling, I believe right there they were freaking out trying to figure out what do I need to do?

"We know that what happened did not have to happen and that his death was not the result of the fall," Susan Wampler said. 

While his granddaughter believes there is more to the story, authorities with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office stand by their initial findings, they say Wayne Hicks fell from a ledge near his home.

"The case is closed, we've had a number of detectives that have reviewed it, when over it, looked at it, we have consulted with the District Attorney's office and the me's office there is nothing else to do in this case, there is no other evidence to indicate that there was anything other than the fall that caused his death," Sergeant Burk Murray said.  

Sergeant Burk Murray with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office criminal investigations helped lead the investigation into Wayne Hicks' death. I asked him about Susan Wampler's theory of a car possibly hitting her grandfather.

"We investigated that theory, we took a number of detectives, my self specializing in traffic investigations, we took homicide detectives and reviewed all of that evidence and determined that those droplets that she was calling blood were not blood," Sergeant Burk Murray said.  

According to medical examiner reports Hicks' cause of death is listed as accidental. The report says the bruising on Hicks' the body is largely due to an anticoagulant that he was taking. 

Susan Wampler believes her grandfather was hit by a vehicle she vows to continuing searching for what she believes is the truth.  

"Until we figure out what happened and bring those people to justice we are not going to have any peace," Wampler said. 

Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus and he says the case is closed. Hicks' family members say they had no idea the case was closed by the sheriff's office until we told them. 

Wampler says she will continue working to find another way to prove her theory about her grandfather's death. 

Investigators say they are willing to meet with the family again and answer any questions they may have about this case. 


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