Stroke victim's 'deathbed' confession to 32-year-old murder proves premature

Lying in his bed for what he was convinced were his final moments, James Brewer, a stroke victim, felt compelled to confess to a crime that had weighed on his conscience for more than three decades.

In 1977, the factory worker was arrested in Tennessee on suspicion of shooting a man dead in a fit of jealous rage, but he jumped bail and fled to Oklahoma, where he and his wife began a new life under assumed names. Eager to clear his conscience before he passed away, he phoned police back in Tennessee and admitted his guilt.

Detectives said Mr Brewer, 58, told them he wanted to "cleanse his soul" and go to meet his maker with a clear conscience. But in a bizarre twist of fate, he survived the illness and now faces a new murder trial over the death of Jimmy Carroll, the neighbour he believed tried to seduce his wife, Dorothy, 32 years ago.

Last week, a newly recovered Mr Brewer and his wife sold all their possessions in a garage sale and left their home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where they were reportedly living as Michael and Dorothy Anderson.

They drove to Hohenwald, Tennessee, where he surrendered to police and may now face the death penalty. Detective Tony Grasso, who interviewed Mr Brewer, said: "He wanted to cleanse his soul, because he thought he was going to the great beyond."

In Shawnee, the couple were regular churchgoers and grandparents. They have a married daughter, Kelly, who went to university and married a soldier.

The Rev Lawrence Guest, of the Good Shepherd Chapel where Mrs Brewer set up a Bible study group, said: "I don't know what their former life was but I do know they were both dedicated to the Lord. They've been in their own prison for 30 years. I think they've done their time."

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