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UPDATE: Erwin woman, husband apprehended in murder-for-hire plot

A 40-year-old Unicoi County woman and her 62-year-old husband were arrested Tuesday evening after local authorities wrapped an investigation into a murder-for-hire plot, Unicoi County Sheriff's Department spokesman Robie Sullins said Wednesday afternoon.

The department, working in tandem with Erwin and state police, as well as the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, arrested Gerald Dorene Tipton, 2441 Chestoa Pike, Erwin, shortly after 8 p.m. in the Clear Branch community, in the southern part of the county.

Tipton was charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder, sale of a Schedule IV controlled substance and delivery of a Schedule III controlled substance.

Hours later, after conducting an interview with Tipton's husband, James M. Tipton, police arrested the man and charged him with conspiracy to solicit first-degree murder and conspiracy to sell a Schedule IV controlled substance.

UCSD Chief Deputy Ronnie Adkins said the arrests stem from a joint undercover investigation the sheriff's department and Erwin Police Department began several months ago into the sale of illegal prescription pills.

Adkins said an informant with the investigation reported hearing information about five weeks ago pertaining to a murder plot involving Gerald Dorene Tipton's ex-husband, whose name was not released.

“We were able to arrange a transaction with an undercover police officer posing as a hit-man to murder her ex-husband,” Adkins said. “After the transaction was made and her intentions were made clear, she was arrested at the welcome center.”

Adkins said the woman was using both prescription drugs and money to complete the transaction, and added that she did not struggle when officers arrested her.

“The operation went very smooth,” Adkins commented. “She was arrested without any incident.”

Both Tiptons faced arraignment Wednesday morning. Gerald Dorene Tipton's bond was set at $100,000. James Tipton's bond was set at $75,000. Both are scheduled to appear in general sessions court on Thursday, Aug. 25.