By Bob Allen
A Union University Christian ministry major is being held without bond in Jackson, Tenn., on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in connection with the homicide of his fiancée, who was found dead from a gunshot wound inside a locked car on a campus parking lot early Feb. 12.
Police say Charles Pittman, 21, killed Union University senior Olivia Greenlee, 21, in her car on the night of Feb. 11, and then staged the shooting as an apparent suicide.
Pittman has been suspended as a student by the school affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and as youth pastor and children’s minister at Providence Baptist Church in Alamo, Tenn., where he reportedly has been employed since September 2013.
Union President David Dockery released a statement Feb. 15 describing the tragedy involving two commuter students as “incredibly devastating and saddening news.”
“Understanding that an arrest is not the same thing as a conviction, we now need to let the judicial process run its course,” Dockery said. “Union University continues to cooperate with authorities.”
Dockery said crisis counselors were available to the campus community.
“During this difficult time, words motivated by hatred or judgment are not helpful to anyone,” Dockery said. “I want to encourage us to pray for all the families connected to this tragedy. Let us ask for God’s wisdom, comfort, help and mercy during the days and weeks to come.”
Providence Baptist Church Pastor Randy Kellough released a statement to media on Sunday saying: “We were deeply saddened by the news of the death of Olivia Greenlee, and as a church body we are praying for the family and friends and will continue praying for them in the days ahead. We have been informed of the arrest of Charlie Pittman, our youth and children’s minister. We will pray for Brother Charlie and his family and friends. At this time, we have no further comment other than to reiterate our concern for the family and friends of Olivia during this tragic loss of such an awesome, young Christian lady. As a church, we will be praying for all parties involved.”
Jackson police say they were called around 7:50 a.m. on Wednesday after Greenlee was found dead in her 2001 Toyota Corolla on the parking lot behind Luther Hall on Union University’s campus. Investigators found a gun inside the car and an assistant county medical examiner determined the preliminary cause of death was a single gunshot wound.
Police questioned Pittman, the last known person to see her alive, and held him as a person of interest at the Madison County Jail. Over the weekend investigators and prosecutors said the evidence suggests that Pittman shot Greenlee as she sat in her car and then staged the scene to make it look like a suicide.
Investigators prepared a warrant charging Pittman with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. He appeared at 8 a.m. Tuesday for arraignment in Jackson City Court. Pittman told Judge Blake Anderson he works at Logan’s Roadhouse and cannot afford to hire an attorney. The judge denied bond and ordered the public defender’s office to represent him.
According to Pittman’s arrest affidavit, he originally told investigators he had dinner with Greenlee on Feb. 11 and became concerned about her emotional state after she dropped him off at his apartment. He began texting her and notified friends and even her parents, who traveled from Dyersburg, Tenn., to assist in the search.
On the morning of Feb. 12 Pittman called Union University security and asked that they check the campus in order to find her.
Police say investigators asked Pittman to provide the clothing he was wearing when the couple had dinner and he tried to mislead them by giving them clothing that did not match what he was seen wearing at the restaurant on video.
When confronted, Pittman allegedly told investigators that he needed to tell the truth. He provided police with the clothing seen on the video that had been laundered and bleached. He said after dinner he and Greenlee drove to Luther Hall and that while sitting in the car with her he provided her with the 9mm handgun and she shot herself in the head.
Pittman said he left Greenlee in the car, locked the doors and walked back to his apartment. He sent text messages and placed phone calls to Greenlee to avoid suspicion when her body was found.
Police say the recovered weapon was stolen from Pittman’s roommate and that evidence at the scene contradicts his story.
Greenlee’s co-workers at Longhorn Steakhouse told Jackson ABC affiliate WBBJ-7 there was never a day the music education major didn’t share her faith with those around her. They described her as sweet, hardworking and said she had a contagious smile that would light up an entire room.
Co-workers said she talked often about her upcoming wedding to Pittman, her college sweetheart, and was passing out save-the-date cards and talking about fittings for her wedding dress a week before her death.