Following up on a story we first brought you Wednesday, we now have more information on 45-year-old Lonnie Vann’s guilty pleas to kidnapping and murder in the death of Rhonda Daugherty, who was last seen December 2nd, 2014. Vann pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Campbell County courtroom to second-degree murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence in Daugherty’s disappearance and was sentenced to 45 years behind bars. Additionally, Vann also pleaded guilty to robbery and kidnapping charges associated with a crime spree prosecutors say began on December 1st, 2014 as well as to charges that he hugged and tried to kiss a 13-year-old girl he had driven off campus while employed at a Campbell County middle school in October of last year. Despite exhaustive searches of Norris Lake and numerous other locations, Daugherty’s body has never been found. Vann still faces charges connected to an armed robbery in December 2014 at a hotel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he was apprehended. During Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors provided more information about the crime spree and a timeline of sorts of how the incidents unfolded.
On December 1st, 2014, prosecutors say Vann told his wife he had gotten a job at a trucking company and that he had to travel out of town for training. He rented an SUV, checked into the Country Inn & Suites in Clinton then went to Wal-Mart, where he purchased two duffel bags, gloves, two hair trimmers, two rolls of duct tape and energy drinks. Later, Vann left the hotel and purchased a Christmas tree bag and two cinder blocks at Lowe’s on Clinton Highway in Knoxville.
Daugherty was last seen alive the morning of December 2nd. Between then and December 5th, Vann traveled to Kentucky and Indiana before returning to Campbell County on the 5th, binding and robbing a former boss and his wife. Vann was arrested December 12th in Myrtle Beach and when his vehicle was searched, officers found a zip tie with Daugherty’s DNA on it along with other items and a few days later, investigators in Tennessee found a receipt from Lowe’s and cinder block residue on a boat at Sugar Hollow Marina, leading officials to believe her body was weighed down and dumped into the lake. Deep water and debris on the bottom of the lake have hampered search efforts, despite thousands of hours searching the area around the marina.
(Cover photo courtesy of WBIR)