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Warrant: Man killed at Counce bar beaten to death

Sonny Cole McVay

A man accused of murdering another man in the parking lot of a Counce bar last night was arraigned Friday afternoon in the courtroom of the Hardin County jail.
Sonny Cole McVay, 23, of Childers Hill Road in Counce, is charged with first degree murder and public intoxication.
Law enforcement authorities say McVay murdered Jeffrey David “Dave” Pettigrew, 57, of Adamsville-Stantonville, beating and kicking him to death in the parking lot of the Rodeo Ranch Bar at 1610 Federal Road.
Hardin County General Sessions Judge Danny Smith informed McVay of his rights, the charges he is facing, and that he was entering a plea of not guilty on McVay’s behalf. The judge asked McVay if he had any questions.
“Yes – if I wish to plead guilty, what happens next?” McVay asked, prompting a reaction of surprise among the few others in the courtroom.
Smith replied that would have to happen in Circuit Court, which is where the charges against McVay will ultimately be adjudicated, due to the seriousness of the charges.
“First degree murder here has a range of punishment, including the death penalty, so I would consult with your attorney about making any plea. Today I’m entering a plea of not guilty,” Smith said.
Smith read from the arrest warrant signed by Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Brent Booth.
The warrant says witnesses saw McVay physically assault Pettigrew inside the bar Thursday night, and McVay was escorted outside the bar and asked to leave.
The warrant says Pettigrew left the bar approximately 15 minutes later, and that McVay met him at the driver’s side door of his truck and resumed the physical assault.
TBI agents found evidence of blunt trauma to Pettigrew’s head and face consistent with impressions that would be left by fists and heavy boots, the warrant says.
The warrant continues, saying McVay was later located at the Hardin County Medical Center emergency room with swollen knuckles and blood-covered muck boots and clothing.
The warrant says TBI agents interviewed a witness who says they heard and saw McVay beating Pettigrew in the parking lot of the Rodeo Ranch Bar.
The citation for public intoxication written by Hardin County Sheriff’s Deputy James Frazier says the deputy was called to the HMC emergency room at 3 a.m. Friday, on a report of a man who said he’d been assaulted at the Rodeo Ranch.
On arrival, the deputy notes that McVay said he’d been “hit in the head” at the bar.
After he was treated and released from the hospital, the deputy arrested him for public intoxication and took him to the Hardin County jail, the citation says.
Rodeo Ranch Bar owner Sammy Jones told The Courier that McVay entered the bar and began speaking in an obnoxious manner, then “walked over to Pettigrew and sucker punched him and knocked him out.”
Jones said he and a patron ran McVay out of the bar, but that McVay “must have been lurking outside,” waiting for Pettigrew to leave, and then resumed the attack once Pettigrew went to his truck.
Jones said he noticed Pettigrew’s truck was still outside and walked out, only to find Pettigrew with grievous mortal injuries.
The bar owner added that the entire incident lasted about 20 minutes, and that he has given the bar’s surveillance camera footage to law enforcement.
McVay remains held at the Hardin County jail on $1 million bond. His next court appearance is set for Tuesday.
Judge Smith said if McVay is still in jail Tuesday and has not hired an attorney, a public defender will be appointed to represent him.


  1. Martha Hieronymus on December 30, 2022 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you COURIER for the news that we would later receive a smigon of on Jackson tv. Hope your New Year start is a quiet one.

  2. Jennifer Parks on March 28, 2023 at 6:12 am

    A horrible act committed against someone who did not deserve to die. I hope McVay gets the death penalty.

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