Arrest made in 1996 cold case murder of nursing supervisor Tommy Eugene Smith

BARTOW - Sixteen years after a Bartow man was found dead near a citrus grove, Polk County officials say it wasn't evidence that helped them solve 37-year-old Tommy Eugene Smith's murder, but a guilty conscience.

Timothy Elbert Carey, 35, was charged with first-degree murder after a man who was present at the time of the crime contacted officials and provided details that detectives say had been eating away at him.

Smith was a nursing supervisor at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and he was previously employed at Winter Haven and Bartow Hospitals.

The witness told police that he and Carey were in Smith's vehicle the night of the murder when Carey to Smith to drive down a dirt road.

All three men got out of the vehicle and Carey robbed Smith, then shot him to death.

The witness said he was then forced at gunpoint by Carey to drag Smith's body into an orange grove.

An autopsy confirmed that he was shot.

The witness has not been charged in the murder.

Carey will have his first appearance in court at 9:00 a.m. Saturday.

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