Former D.A. and first responders look back on Lillelid murders 20 years later

GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Thursday marks twenty years since one of the most chilling crimes in our region.

On April 6th 1997, the Lillelid family was murdered by a group of six people, the only survivor is their two year old son. Vidar and Delfina Lillelid were killed along with their six-year-old daughter Tabitha. Their two-year-old son Peter survived.

Their murders made national headlines, shocked the Greene County community, and still weigh heavy on the hearts of those who responded to the 911 call that day.

“Very religious family returning from a religious convention pulling into a quote safe place on the interstate, kidnapped, taken a short distance, and then brutally murdered, well that’s enough to scare or shock anybody,” Berkeley Bell, the former District Attorney General for the Third Judicial District, said.

Halfway home to Knox county, the Lillelid family pulled in to a rest stop in Baileyton, but that’s the closest they would get to home. A group of six young strangers car-jacked the family, and took them in their van to a dead end road, and shot the entire family.

When first responders got to the scene, “We couldn’t tell what was going on until we got up there and realized the mom and dad were both already deceased. I grabbed the little girl, my partner grabbed Peter, we took them to the ambulance of course, they were both still alive, barely,” Tim Cloyd with Greene County EMS said. He was one of the first on the scene that night.

Cloyd said it was almost his last day on the job.

“That next morning when I got off I had no intention of ever coming back,” Cloyd said.

Twenty years later he still works for EMS, but he said what he saw on April 6th, 1997 has never left him.

Bell was the district attorney at the time. He told us what one neighbor said they heard the night of the shootings.

“He heard them laughing with sounds of that nature like they were playing, like children playing on a playground amid the shots that were being fired. So that conjured for me a picture of them just around these bodies laughing enjoying themselves after shooting them, and then laying them out in the form of a cross and running over them,” Bell said.

The six were on the run for two days when they were arrested at the Arizona- Mexico border. They were brought back to an outraged community. Officers brought them to the Greene County courthouse in six separate cars, each got out to a screaming crowd waiting for them.

“It’s the most prominent case of my career by far I mean I’m here in Greeneville, Tennessee, when I walk out the door and there’s cameras and reporters from all over the world ready to ask me questions you know it’s something that I’ll never forget,” Bell said.

Initially the six, all from Kentucky, pleaded not guilty to the murders, but later, all six admitted guilt and are all serving life sentences.

Two of the six convicted in this case are currently petitioning to get out of jail.

Karen Howell and Jason Bryant have filed post-conviction petitions that Assistant District Attorney for the Third Judicial District, Ritchie Collins said could help them get parole.

Karen Howell’s hearing is scheduled for April 21. At last check, Jason Bryant’s hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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