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Psycho For Love: William Groseclose hired 2 men, Phillip Michael Britt and Ronald Rickman, to kill his wife, Deborah Groseclose

Deborah GrosecloseFrom William Groseclose appeal: In February 1978, William E. Groseclose was convicted in the Shelly County, Tennessee, Circuit Court of murder in the first degree in connection with the killing of his wife, Deborah Lee Groseclose, on June 29, 1977.   Groseclose was alleged to have contacted Barton Wayne Mount, a naval recruit Groseclose met while Groseclose was employed in the Navy Recruiting Service, in an effort to find someone to murder Mrs. Groseclose.  State v. Groseclose, 615 S.W.2d 142, 144 (Tenn.1981).   Mount referred Groseclose to an acquaintance, Phillip Michael Britt, who in turn contacted Ronald Eugene Rickman, Britt’s former brother-in-law.   Rickman agreed to commit the murder in cooperation with Britt.   Groseclose agreed to pay a certain price, in which Rickman, Britt, and Mount would all share.   During its prosecution of the case, the State never ascribed one particular motive to Groseclose, but instead pointed to evidence that “[h]is motives may have been apprehension that [his wife] was about to sue him for divorce, desire to obtain [substantial] life insurance proceeds, or interest in another woman.”

The Tennessee Supreme Court described the murder as “one of the most atrocious and inhuman conceivable.”   According to the evidence presented by the State at trial, the scheme was for Rickman to accost Deborah the day before the murder and, in an attempt to divert suspicion for the later murder from her husband, “to frighten her to the point that she would report ․ the incident to the police.”  The next morning, Groseclose left his house with the couple’s infant son, leaving the back door unlocked.   Rickman and Britt then entered the house;  each raped Deborah Groseclose, and then told her “there was a ‘contract’ on her life.”  

After listening to Deborah plead for her life by offering money to her assailants, Rickman “proceeded to strangle Mrs. Groseclose into unconsciousness,” and then, because he detected a pulse, to stab her three or four times in the back.  Rickman and Britt placed Deborah in the trunk of her car, apparently believing her to be dead, “and drove the vehicle to a parking lot adjacent to the main Memphis Public Library.”   During the trip, Rickman learned that she was not in fact dead because he “could hear her cries for help from the trunk.”  Rickman and Britt nonetheless left her in the trunk of her car;  she was discovered five days later, and the medical testimony at trial suggested that while she would not have died from her injuries alone, the excessive heat in her car trunk caused her death.

During the subsequent investigation, police were led to Rickman and Mount through information given by Rickman’s roommate.   Although Rickman, Britt, and Mount all gave statements to the police, Groseclose did not.   Groseclose, Rickman, and Britt were all charged with murder in the first degree, tried jointly, and convicted.

Jury gives death sentences
Tried, Convicted, Ordered to Die. But Is He Guilty?
Murderers Re-Tried After 22 Years!! Removed from Death Row & Sentenced to Life; Now Parole Eligible
Pair convicted 20 years ago get new trial
Run-In With Uncle Navy
They’ve found Debbi….She Is Dead.
I didn’t kill her, Bill. I swear I didn’t (part one)
Groseclose (part 2)
All the jury heard was the AG. Nothing from us.
William E. Groseclose v Ricky Bell 1997 (sentence and conviction affirmed)
Groselose parole hearing at least five years away
Parole denied for Groseclose, Turner
Parole denied for one of Memphis’ most notorious murderers

Books
Murder in Memphis

Movies/Documentaries
On the Case with Paula Zahn: Left Alone
Suspicion: A Sister’s Suspicion

Defendants
William Groseclose – convicted, sentenced to life in prison
Ronald Rickman – convicted, sentenced to life in prison
Phillip Michael Britt – convicted, sentenced to life in prison
Barton Wayne Mount – pled guilty, sentenced to 10 years in prison

INMATE INFORMATION
GROSECLOSE, WILLIAM
TOMIS ID: 00083408
Birth Date: 01/30/1948
Race: W
Sex: M
Supervision Status: INCARCERATED
Location: WTSP
Sentence Begin: 07/11/1977
Sentence End:
Parole Eligibility : 07/11/2007
Parole Hearing: 09/2019
Hearing Result:

INMATE INFORMATION

RICKMAN, RONALD
TOMIS ID: 00083407
Birth Date: 09/15/1952
Race: W
Sex: M
Supervision Status: INCARCERATED
Location: MCCX
Sentence Begin: 07/13/1977
Sentence End:
Parole Eligibility : 07/13/2007
Parole Hearing: 09/2019
Hearing Result:

INMATE INFORMATION

BRITT, PHILLIP MICHAEL
TOMIS ID: 00083210
Birth Date: 08/16/1957
Race: W
Sex: M
Supervision Status: INCARCERATED
Location: HCCF
Sentence Begin: 07/15/1977
Sentence End:
Parole Eligibility : 04/14/2000
Parole Hearing: 08/2016
Hearing Result:

3 Responses

  1. When did Groseclose die? TN DOC shows he is deceased but not when, and I cannot find an obituary for him.

    • I’m wondering also and why they were given the chance to enter back into the community by the people of Tennessee.

  2. There is no Shelly County in Tennessee. It should be Shelby County, which is west Tennessee (Memphis, etc).

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