Tennessee kidnapping case ends in Monroe County

By Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal

ABERDEEN — A kidnapping that began at a Kangaroo gas station in metro Nashville, ended in Monroe County when the culprit was found dead at Crossroads Shell in Hamilton Friday morning.

Stephen Lynn Cronk, 58, of 648 North Boyers St., Gallatin, Tenn., texted Summer Eaton, 18, of 239 East. Winchester St. Apt. A, Gallatin, Tenn., after she got off work from a Waffle House to say he wanted to tell her goodbye before he moved to Knoxville, Tenn.

The two knew each other from the Waffle House and they met at the Kangaroo service station in Mt. Juliet shortly thereafter.

According to Eaton’s statement, he threatened her at gunpoint when she tried to leave. Cronk took her cell phone, tied her up and taped her hands and was driving the two of them to Alabama when driving through Aberdeen on Highway 45.

She asked if they could stop at the Best Western for the night. He checked in at 10:16 p.m. Wednesday.

After checking into a room, Cronk tried to have sex with the woman before she asked if he would get her Dr. Pepper and while he was distracted, she grabbed his handgun from the nightstand and shot him in the stomach area. While he was down, she ran for the door, but he got up so she locked herself in the bathroom until she couldn’t hear him anymore. After 25 minutes, she eased out to check for him and saw he had left before calling 911.

Aberdeen police officers responded to the scene around 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Cronk was wanted by the APD for kidnapping and aggrevated sexual assault for nearly 30 hours after leaving the Best Western.

“The subject was a registered sex offender and already had priors including simple assault, sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault,” said Henry Randall, Aberdeen Chief of Police.

Monroe County sheriff’s deputies found Cronk dead in his Nissan Frontier around 6 a.m. Friday in the south parking lot of Crossroads Shell.

He had been there for hours, but surveillance footage at the store showed movement in the truck when previous customers had knocked on the truck’s window to check on him. His time of death was estimated shortly before 6 a.m.

“I know he wasn’t killed by the gunshot so we’re really waiting on the autopsy reports to determine the cause of death. We’re not sure about his previous health problems and an open pill bottle was found in his truck,” Randall said.

In Eaton’s statement, she said Cronk had talked about having a brain tumor and heart problems and that nobody cared about him anymore.

Monroe County Coroner Alan Gurley said Mr. Cronk was found dead in his pickup at 5:51 a.m. Friday morning. He was parked by the Crossroad’s Shell in Hamilton apparently since Thursday morning. He apparently died sometime early Friday morning.

Gurley said Cronk’s body is being sent to the State Medical Examiner in Jackson for an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

“I do believe his death was not from natural causes,” Gurley said.

Autopsy results are pending.

The criminal case is under investigation by the Aberdeen PD.