NEW DETAILS: Son charged with murdering mother


A Carter County man is being held in Georgia after being charged with the premeditated murder of his mother. 

Federal agents arrested 52-year-old John Christopher Ralph at Hartfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta Saturday minutes before he boarded a plane for Amsterdam, according to Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford.  

Lunceford said it was the same day that his department responded to a call about the murder of John’s mother. 

“It’s not typical for someone to kill their mother and this is the first time where we’ve had to intervene with someone trying to get on an international flight,” said Lunceford. “To develop a suspect like this and to get him into custody in less than 12 hours is a tremendous feet.” 

Lunceford said officers responded to a call from Edith Betty Ralph’s caregiver Saturday morning. 

He said the 76-year-old was found at her Reynold’s Road home in Elizabethton with multiple gunshot wounds and her son, who lived with her, was nowhere to be found. 

Lunceford said John Ralph remains the only suspect in this mother’s death. 

Bob Hyatt, who claimed to be Betty’s nephew, was waiting to speak to investigators about John Monday.

Hyatt said John owned the property and he had wanted his mother to start living in a nursing home. 

“I didn’t care for him but I never would’ve dreamed he would’ve done something like that to his mother,” said Hyatt. 

Neighbors were also shocked to hear about the murder. 

Lou Bean, who lives just down the road, said John had moved back in with his mother in recent years.

She said he was a well-mannered man and his mother was always in good spirits.

“She always seemed so happy. Always smiling and going by she’d always make sure to wave,” said Bean. “She was an outgoing woman, well-liked, well-loved.” 

Virginia Gipson said she was Betty’s long-time friend. She helped take her to the doctor, run errands and clean up around the house.

“I was so devastated I almost fainted,” said Gipson. 

In reference to the mother-son relationship, she said, “They were sometimes rude to each other, it went both ways, but they were never hostile or physically violent.” 

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and the Carter County Sheriff’s Department are still actively investigating the case. 

They’ve yet to detail a motive for this alleged murder. 

John Ralph is being held by police in Atlanta on a million dollar bond. 

First Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Dennis Brooks said he will be held there pending extradition. 

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