Aubrey Smith is hopeful about the TBI looking back into his father’s murder.

Aubrey Smith said he went out of the house just as fast as he went in.

“It was devastating. I don’t know how somebody can do somebody like that.”

His father, 86-year-old Will Aubrey Hunt, had been robbed and stabbed to death in his Pickens Store Road home.


He was found by his brother, Clyde, who checked on him every day.

“He came over every day and that day found him in the bed. All the blood and stuff … I bet that was horrific for him.”

It’s been almost 31 years and no one’s been convicted of his father’s murder.

“It’s been a thorn in my side,” Aubrey said. “Not a day passes without me thinking about what happened to him. I wish he could have some justice.”

A story from the July 17, 1991 issue of The Leader reported the news of Hunt’s murder as well as the murder of another person just days apart.

Mason born and raised

Will Hunt with two of his brothers.

Will was one of several children – perhaps nine – born to George and Louisa Joyner Hunt. His father being born just before the Emancipation Proclamation, Will was among the first generation of his family who were born into freedom. He began his earthly journey on March 5, 1905.

The 1930 census shows the 25-year-old was a cotton farmer and lived in a rented farmhouse with his wife, Riola. A decade later, he was married to Mary Matthews and Clyde and his family lived in the next house.

In 1962, Will married Mary Elizabeth Royal. He farmed and later worked for Arlington Development Center.

Aubrey said his father was a church-going man, a member of Salem Missionary Baptist Church down the road from his home, and kept to himself in his later years.

“He was real nice, a local person. He didn’t hang around nobody, just his two older friends.”

About a year before his death, Will allowed Aubrey to put a mobile home right next to his house on the family’s 44 acres.

It’s his favorite memory of the years he had with his father.

Will Hunt was 86 years old when he was beaten and stabbed to death during a home invasion. No one has been held accountable for his murder.

“When he let me put that house on that property it was the first time I had something that was mine.”

They saw one another frequently. At the time Aubrey worked the night shift for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and would call on his way home to ask if his father needed anything.

“I did the best I could to make sure he was taken care of.”

Then tragedy struck on July 13, 1991 while Aubrey was at work.

Investigators said it appeared there was a struggle between Will and an intruder who stole $130.

“I think he would’ve just gave it to him, they didn’t have to kill him. He was an old man, they could have just pushed him. A life is worth more than that.”

Aubrey said he’d have given them $130 just to stay away from his father. He often wonders how much longer his father could have lived.

“I believe he’d have lived over 100. He was very healthy, they have longevity on that side.”

Re-opening the case

Last month the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced they were still hoping to prosecute the person or persons responsible.

Will Hunt was among the first generation of his family born free. His father was born before the Emancipation Proclamation.

When Will was murdered detectives from the Tipton County Sheriff’s Office were also working a murder that had happened a week prior. And then, two weeks later, there was a rape and a third murder.

It was a lot for one department to handle. There were several people questioned, and Aubrey said at one point someone had been arrested, but no one has ever been sentenced to prison for beating and stabbing Will Hunt.

The TBI is looking for any information that might lead to a conviction.

“The suspects, we believe, are still alive and well,” said ASAC Matt Pugh. “We believe they’re out there.”

Sheriff Shannon Beasley said he thinks someone may be ready to share information after all of these years.

“There may be someone out there this may be weighing on their minds, on their conscience hard, and we ask you to come forward and bring us the information you may have, no matter how small you think it is, it could be a big piece of the puzzle to this whole case.”

Hunt’s obituary from the July 17, 1991 issue of The Leader.

Though it’s been three decades without a conviction, Aubrey is thankful and he is hopeful.

“I’m so glad they’re not letting it go,” he said. “I want these people to know we haven’t forgotten, we’re still looking for you, and there’s a special place in hell waiting for whoever did it.”

When the TBI released a video about the case late last month, Aubrey said he was emotional.

“It was a tearjerker. I’m waiting for the day this thorn in my side can be removed. I want to see justice before I die. I would love to see this case brought to justice.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND or TCSO at 901-475-3300.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.