DRUMMONDS, Tenn.-- The Tipton County Sheriff’s Office needs your help in a bizarre and tragic case.
Investigators are just now telling us about the death of 81-year-old Joseph Roman.
They say he was found dead inside his Drummonds home after a house fire on June 17. An autopsy later revealed Roman had been murdered prior to the fire.
Friends say he was killed the day before his birthday.
Deputies are working to figure out if this case is linked to a crash and shooting that happened nearby a short time earlier.
It hurts Bruce Swords every time he looks at the charred remains of his best friend, Joseph Roman’s home off Highway 59 West.
"I would come over almost every day. Drink coffee with him and we would talk for hours," said Swords.
Swords sees the painful image every day. He lives next door.
On June 17, around 4:45 in the morning he was awakened by his mother-in-law who saw an orange glow coming from Roman’s house.
Swords rushed over, realizing it was on fire.
"Ran back home, dialed 911 and I couldn’t find him. I was barefoot, in shorts, no shirt, no nothing," he said.
Swords has no idea why Roman would be targeted.
He says the 81-year-old made his money from selling eggs and blueberries.
He was quiet, didn’t bother anyone.
"Help anybody. He was really just excited about church. He was going to play for the church choir the following day. The next day, which was his birthday," he said.
If this case wasn’t strange enough, deputies have more questions as well. Just two hours 45 minutes before that horrible house fire. A truck carrying two teens crashed into a tree off Randolph Road and Highway 59. The driver of that truck had been shot. That's less than a mile from where Roman was killed.
The juveniles told detectives a vehicle came up behind them and started shooting.
The Tipton County Sheriff’s Office said they have not been confirmed if the two incidents are related.
However, they’re offering a $2,500 reward if you can help them figure out who is responsible for the crimes.
As detectives try to track down leads, Swords keeps a close eye out for anything out of the ordinary.
"This is something that’s unheard of. To me. And I’ve lived out here all my life," said Swords.
His neighbor Jody Birch said she's on edge as well and hopes investigators get answers soon.
“ We don’t really have any trouble. So it’s really strange to us," said Birch.
If you have information you’re asked to contact the Criminal Investigations Division at 901-475-3300. Anonymous tips can also be submitted to the Tipton County tip411 app or by texting Tipton to 847411