(CBS) A Tennessee man has been found guilty of murder after making a "deathbed confession" to the crime, only to recover later, CBS affiliate WSMV reports.
In 2009, James Washington confessed to killing Joyce Goodener in 1995 after he thought he was about to die of a heart attack. At the time, he was in jail for an unrelated crime. As he lay in his hospital bed, he confided in his guard, James Tomlinson.
"He kind of got as best as he could, motioned, and said, 'I have something to tell you. I have to get something off my conscience and you need to hear this.' He said, 'I killed somebody. I beat her to death,'" Tomlinson testified last week in court.
Goodener's body was discovered on July 5, 1995 in an empty house in Nashville. Police said she was stabbed in the neck, set on fire and beaten with a cinder block.
Investigators said the case grew cold, as there wasn't even a DNA sample that could lead them to a suspect.
Prosecutors said Washington was always considered a suspect due to knowing the victim and admitting he saw her the day she died, but there was never any real evidence until Washington unexpectedly provided it himself.
Washington tried to change his confession when his health improved, but he was convicted of first-degree murder last week. He is expected to be sentenced to at least 51 years in prison.