Lonnie Vann pleads guilty to murder in Campbell County court

Lonnie Vann pictured in court on Aug. 17, 2015.

JACKSBORO (WATE) – The man accused of murdering a Campbell County woman entered a plea deal.

Lonnie Vann, 44, a former LaFolette Middle School teacher pleaded guilty to second degree murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and assault. Vann said he was pleading guilty because he is guilty.

Rhonda Daugherty
Rhonda Daugherty (source: Campbell County Sheriff’s Office)

According to the district attorney’s office, Vann took a LaFollette Middle School student to church, tried to kiss her, then destroyed video evidence in October 2013. The state also said he robbed a family in Deerfield in December 2014. Vann was added to TBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List after he was wanted in connection to the robbery.

Then in December 2014, Vann killed Rhonda Daugherty, according to the D.A.’s office. Rhonda Daughtery’s body has not been found. However, the state brought forward evidence in court that may shed some light on her death.

Sobs could be heard throughout the court room as Daugherty’s mother Nancy Kitts took the stand telling the court about her daughter’s spirit.

“There’s no one to call me mom anymore. I miss and love her so much. I can’t imagine why, why anyone would want to hurt her?” said Kitts.

The state showed the judge surveillance pictures of Vann in the Clinton Walmart on December 1, 2014. He was purchasing duffel bags, gloves and duct tape. The next day he is at the Lowes on Clinton Hwy buying a Christmas tree bag and cinder blocks.

This is the same day Daugherty went missing. A receipt for these items was found in a fishing boat at Sugar Hollow Marina on Norris Lake. A private area of the lake was searched but the body was never found.

“This area of Norris Lake approximately 160 feet in depth with standing timber making diving impossible and the use of underwater search equipment difficult,” said District Attorney Jared Effler.

On December 12, 2014, Vann was arrested in Myrtle Beach. Authorities searched his car and found a duffel bag and zip tie with Daugherty’s DNA on it. It’s a crime Daugherty’s husband, Charles Daugherty still can’t imagine.

“It keeps me awake at night wondering how or why someone, anyone could do something to harm the innocent, loving person she was,” said Charles Daugherty.

The sheriff vows to keep looking for Daugherty’s body. Her mother hopes she’s brought home soon.

“I hope someday soon that we will have her body so it will have a resting place for her. We know where her soul is,” said Kitts.

In the plea deal Vann agreed to serve 40 years. The district attorney says Vann will be at least 75 years old before he is eligible for parole. The judge accepted the plea deal but said to the victim’s family he understands the justice system can’t mend all hearts.

 

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