Then the phone rang at the Decatur Police Department. Johnny Dwight Whited called investigators saying he wanted to confess to the slaying, authorities said Thursday.
Whited, 53, of Trinity, was charged with murder after providing details that matched evidence and information collected after Dailey's death, police said in a statement.
Court records don't include a defense attorney who could speak on behalf of Whited on the murder charge, but he already was awaiting trial on a methamphetamine charge with his trial scheduled for May. Whited's lawyer in the drug case, Griff Belser, said he was unaware of the arrest in the slaying until after it was announced by police.
“He has not mentioned anything about this other matter to me,” Belser said.
Whited had a string of arrests for traffic and drug offenses through the years including one for possession of a crack cocaine pipe less than three weeks after two hunters found Dailey's body with a gunshot to the head on April 26, 1995, documents show. The victim's vehicle was found partially submerged in the Tennessee River.
Without a suspect and no information that could lead to one, detectives kept following leads without any success. Then, on Wednesday, a detective answered the phone.
In a sworn statement, Investigator Sean Mukaddam said he initially spoke to Whited, who agreed to show police the crime scene.
“Detectives met with Whited who reenacted the crime to detectives and provided corroborated information about the murder,” the statement said.
While police sometimes make public appeals for information to help resolve old cases, that had not happened with Dailey's killing. Authorities said it was not clear what prompted the call from Whited, who was jailed for the killing with bail set at $15,000