Erman Thompson's decapitated body was discovered in a field Thursday. His head was found in a trash can Friday behind his home.
Henry Baxter, 37, was arrested Friday and charged with criminal homicide.
Thompson's body was found in a vacant lot on Hermitage Avenue in south Nashville.
Both men lived at 116 Claiborne Street with Thompson's wife and her three children.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
A twisted love triangle resulted in the murder and decapitation of a south Nashville man at the alleged hands of his adopted son.
Metro police arrested and charged 37-year-old Henry Baxter with criminal homicide early Friday morning for the murder of 48-year-old Erman Thompson.
Thompson's headless body was discovered by a mail carrier in a vacant lot located at 169 Old Hermitage Avenue around 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
His head was recovered early Friday in a garbage can in an alleyway next to a home located at 116 Claiborne Street. The addresses are less than two blocks apart.
According to Metro police detectives, last Sunday, July 8, Thompson and Baxter got into an argument over Thompson's wife at the Claiborne Street address where the trio lived with three young children.
Police said the fight escalated and Baxter took Thompson's gun and shot Thompson in the head.
He disposed of his body in a garbage can in the backyard.
The following day, police said Baxter took Thompson's body out of the garbage and decapitated him with a shovel. He then placed the body and the head back into the garbage can.
Wednesday, Baxter took Thompson's body to the vacant lot off Old Hermitage Avenue and dumped it.
The mailman, who typically stops at the vacant lot on his lunch break, discovered the body the following day.
He told police he smelled a foul odor on Wednesday afternoon but initially ignored it.
Police said Thompson was partially clothed and his body was badly decomposed.
"A homicide involving decapitation in this city is virtually unheard of," Metro police spokesperson Don Aaron said during a new conference at the scene Thursday evening.
He added Friday that the last decapitation the department can remember dates back 25 years.
Aaron said he credits the public for helping investigators quickly identify the body and thus make an arrest in the case.
He said after a description of the tattoos on the body was released, the department received a tip from a resident who gave police Thompson's name.
Investigators went to Thompson's Claiborne Street home after Baxter, who also happened to be the tattoo artist, confirmed his identity.
Baxter admitted to the murder following his arrest.
He told investigators he is the adopted child of the Thompsons and also fathered a child with Mrs. Thompson.
Thompson had at least one child in the home. Police believed the third child to be fathered by another man.
Nashville's News 2 spoke with Mrs. Thompson on Friday afternoon.
"My kids no longer have a father," she said. "How do you tell your children their dad is not coming back? I can't do it. I haven't found the words yet. I know I have it inside of me and it will happen."
She continued, "Thank God for my friends giving me strength to deal with this. I won't cry in front of my kids. I won't show I am sad. [I hope] James Baxter rots in jail the rest of his life. I'm sorry, you don't do that to someone you call dad."
Mrs. Thompson said she was not at home when the fight between the two men broke out.
"I was not home [at the time. I was] at church. All three [of the kids] were. They would [have] seen and heard a lot. I hope and pray they were not in the house to hear this," she said.
Mrs. Thompson said she learned of her husband's death while at her friend's home.
"[I] didn't want to believe it on the news," she said. "[I] heard he was gone, [I was] at my best friend's house and collapsed and my heart was gone. I knew he was gone. My best friend called the police. I was shaking so bad."
Baxter was charged with criminal homicide and booked into the Metro jail on a $750,000 bond.
Additional charges are likely, police said.
The gun used in the homicide has been recovered.
Baxter's arrest history reflects convictions for criminal trespassing, driving on a suspended license and tattooing without a license.