Woman arrested almost 1 year after man found dead in burned Tipton County house

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TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. — A woman has been arrested in the case of an 81-year-old man found murdered after a fire last year in a home near Drummonds.

Amber Blair Whitehead, 33, of Saltillo, Mississippi was arrested Wednesday evening near Tupelo and brought back to Tipton County, Sheriff J.T. "Pancho" Chumley said.

Whitehead is being held without bond on a first-degree murder charge and is due in court May 22.

"It may be a start to finding what all happened, but, I mean, we still really don’t know," said Joe Torkell.

Joseph Roman was found dead June 17, 2017 after a house fire in the 15000 block of Highway 59 West on the eve of his 82nd birthday.

"It put everybody on a heightened sense of urgency of wondering what’s gonna happen next," said neighbor Bruce Swords.

An autopsy later determined Roman had been killed prior to the fire, but deputies declined to say how he died.

Swords said he recalls seeing Whitehead and a man in the neighborhood shortly after the murder.

"I don’t know why she was here. She just said she was looking around, that they used to live in the woods back here or something," he said.

According to an affidavit, a confidential source told detectives they heard Whitehead say she planned to rob Roman of $50,000 and acted as a lookout while others killed him.

Another source with knowledge of the case told WREG Whitehead and her accomplices were looking for another man, but went to the wrong house.

"We haven’t confirmed that, we have not been able to deny that. We don’t know for sure if that was the case or if Mr. Roman himself was the actual target," said Tipton County Deputy Chief Shannon Beasley.

There's many questions investigators aren't able to answer including whether the murder had anything to do with a truck that was shot at and crashed hours before less than a mile from Roman's home.

But Beasley said the sheriff's office has multiple persons of interest besides Whitehead.

"We will not rest until we have everyone that we’re comfortable with that may have had something to do with this homicide," said Beasley.

If anyone has information in this case, please call Tipton County's Criminal Investigations Division at 901-475-3300, Central Dispatch after hours at 901-475-4300, phone in tips at 901-475-3307, or email tips to sheriff@tiptonco.com.

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