The man who violently murder an elderly woman, mutilated, stuffed her body in a suitcase, and dumped it along the side of a road in Bedford County pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Thursday.
William Brace was sentenced to life in prison, having to spend at least 51 years behind bars before he’s eligible for parole. He will be 111 years old before that happens.
He took the life of his neighbor, 86-year-old Lois Jean Espy.
Family and friends believe the woman’s loving heart, giving spirit, and trust of others may be the reason she was targeted.
Espy trusted Brace to the point of inviting him over, even loaning him her car.
“We still don’t understand why he did what he did,” longtime friend Cecilia Prince said.But Brace betrayed that trust, killed, and then mutilated her body, put it in a suitcase and dumped beside the road in Bedford County.
Knowing the way she died is still emotional for her brother, Dan Parker.
“I’m glad to see him put away, and he won’t ever do this again,” Parker told News 2.
“I’m thankful that justice has been served,” Prince added. “Jean was a wonderful kind, giving person that befriended everyone that she knew as she did with Mr. Brace.”
Lois Jean Espy didn’t meet a stranger.
“She knew that they had value and that she wanted to find the good in all people,” Prince told News 2.
The 86-year-old missionary would travel near and far with Prince, visiting prisoners and inmates as part of a jail ministry.
Norris Randle was one of them. He was in jail in Marietta, Georgia, and Espy wrote him letters weekly.
She even testified as a character witness, and Randle was let out of jail early.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from or what past you had; she always had a kind word to tell you about Jesus,” Randle said. “That was her main purpose in life, to give of herself. She was a true disciple.”
Family and friends are grateful they didn’t have to endure a trial.
“To have to go through the trial and endure going through the re-living of what she went through would be very difficult,” Prince said.
“In my human sense, I would never be pleased with this deal, but being a Christian and knowing Jean she would forgive him,” Randle noted.
Brace will soon be transferred from the Rutherford County Jail to a state prison.
Courtesy of WKRN Nashville’s News 2