By Bob Allen
A former Union University student pleaded guilty Aug. 6 to second-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the 2014 shooting death of his fiancée on the campus of the Baptist affiliated school in Jackson, Tenn.
Charlie Pittman, 22, a Christian ministries major and former member of the golf team accused of murdering 21-year-old Olivia Greenlee and staging the death to look like a suicide, accepted a plea bargain in Madison County Circuit Court sentencing him to 40 years in prison.
A victim’s advocate told the court that Greenlee’s family agreed to terms of the plea agreement “in order to bring healing to our grief-stricken family and to others impacted by the crimes of Mr. Pittman.”
Greenlee, a senior from Dyersburg, Tenn., majoring in music education, was found dead inside a parked car in the parking lot of Luther Hall, an auxiliary part of Union’s campus, on the morning of Feb. 12, 2014. A gun was found inside the car, and the cause of death was determined to be a single gunshot wound.
Questioned as the last person known to see her alive, Pittman at first told police that he became concerned about her emotional state after dropping her off after a dinner date Feb. 11, texting friends and her parents about her whereabouts.
Police asked Pittman to provide the clothing he was wearing when the couple had dinner, but what he gave them did not match how he was dressed in video captured at the restaurant. When confronted Pittman said he needed to tell the truth and claimed that he was sitting in the car with Greenlee when she killed herself.
Pittman was arrested Feb. 14, 2014, on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. His arrest warrant said his story didn’t line up with the physical evidence at the crime scene. A grand jury indicted him that November.
His original trial date of May 2015 was postponed twice due to backlogs at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab. Some of the forensic evidence still has not been processed, according to a story in the Jackson Sun, but prosecutors said there was enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Evidence showed that Greenlee was shot from a distance of 8 to 10 inches, atypical for a self-inflicted wound, and blood spatters on Pittman’s left shoe were inconsistent with him sitting next to her in a car.
New evidence revealed Aug. 6 included promised testimony that Pittman confided in a cellmate that he shot and killed his fiancée and that she “never saw it coming” — a detail corroborated by medical evidence that Greenlee did not see what was about to happen — and that in the last two weeks he wrote letters asking a friend to send an anonymous letter to the editor pretending to be the “real killer.”
Public defender George Googe told the Jackson Sun that Pittman’s 40-year sentence is non-parole, but he can qualify for up to a 15 percent reduction for good behavior.
“Even that would be 34 calendar years,” Googe said. “Mr. Pittman is going to be in there for a long time. This is a tough decision for him to make as well. He’s 22 years old. It’s the first time he’s ever been in any trouble with the law, and some of the people that have suffered as well is his family.”
“Of course they want their privacy, and I respect that, but something a lot of people don’t realize is that both sides suffer here,” he said. “Certainly Olivia’s family has suffered, and we want to express our condolences and best wishes to them to be able to move on as well.”
The Jackson Sun said Union President Samuel “Dub” Oliver was among people in the courtroom when Pittman entered his guilty plea, but he declined comment.