On September 1, 1979, Cary Ann Medlin and her stepbrother were riding their bicycles in the neighborhood near their home in Greenfield, Tennessee. Robert Coe pulled up next to them and began to talk to them, acting as if he knew Cary’s father and needed directions to his house. Cary got into Coe’s car to help him, and she was never seen alive again. As soon as she was reported missing, friends and neighbors in the close-knit community began a massive search to locate Cary or the man whose car she was last seen in. The following day, her body was found at the end of a road on the outskirts of town. An autopsy revealed that she had been sexually assaulted. Coe had a long history of drug abuse, mental illness, and indecent exposure. Shortly after the crime he told family members that he had killed someone, but they initially did not believe him. After hearing about the murdered girl, some of Coe’s family members started to help him evade capture by buying him a bus ticket to Georgia, but another notified the police. Coe was captured at the bus station.
Coe was arrested and confessed to the murder, giving a detailed description of the crime. Coe confessed that he drove Cary to an isolated spot on the outskirts of town and then, according to his confessional videotape, masturbated while the child watched. It is speculated that he also molested and raped her in his Ford Gran Torino or somewhere nearby. According to the same taped confession, he then became angry at her when she said to him repeatedly “Jesus loves you” after witnessing his sexual act or possibly after his sexual assault. He then decided he was going to murder her. He went around to her side of the car and yanked her out of the car by her throat. He choked the eight year-old until she turned blue, but he could not strangle her. He then told her to walk down the road and while he walked behind her, he pulled out a pocketknife and stabbed her in the throat. She fell to the ground, grasping at her throat, but quickly bled to death.
On April 19, 2000, he was executed in Nashville, Tennessee by lethal injection. He became the first person to be executed by the State of Tennessee since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated. Tennessee’s last execution before Coe was in 1960.
- April, 15, 1956
- Hickman, Kentucky
- April, 19, 2000
- Nashville, Tennessee
Cause of Death
- execution by lethal injection