published Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Hard life, hard death: Chandra Powell, single mom of 5, finally laid to rest but search for killer goes on

  • photo
    Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press A bouquet of flowers with yellow roses decorate the grave site of Chandra Powell at the Chattanooga Memorial Park Cemetery in Red Bank.

Pictures of her children hang on his apartment walls.

Her 6-year-old golden Lab, Ginger, stays nears his feet.

Those are the daily reminders that Brad Stewart has of the woman he loved, the woman who was brutally slain in October.

It was just last week that Stewart laid 35-year-old Chandra Powell to rest, paying for her funeral with the insurance money he collected from damage claims to her apartment. Her body had been decomposing at the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office for three months.

"It haunted me night and day knowing where she was at," said Stewart, a soft-spoken, gaunt man who stared ahead while sitting in his living room Friday night during an interview.

Three of Powell's children, coming home from school, found her body in her apartment at 4417 Oakwood Drive on Oct. 27. The youngest -- a baby girl just 16 days old -- and the family dog were inside the home when a killer stabbed her repeatedly and bludgeoned her to death with an object police have yet to recover.

Powell's bloodied body was lying in the living room, wrapped in a comforter, according to authorities. When her oldest daughter pulled back the comforter, she found Powell's body with a fractured skull, Stewart said.

Now her five children are scattered among three foster homes.

Chattanooga Police Department homicide detectives continue to look for leads on her killer.

"she fought hard"

While Powell often smiled, she knew the harsher side of life, Stewart said.

Powell, who had few ties to her family in New York and Indiana, was working as a nurse at Life Care Center of Red Bank, he said.

She was a single mother. Her five children had three different fathers, some of whom had done time in prison.

And her life ended in a violent attack. Some of the numerous stab wounds in her 5-foot-2 body plunged nearly 5 inches deep, according to autopsy reports.

Stewart remembers what the apartment looked like when police let him go inside to retrieve items for the children.

  • photo
    Courtesy of Brad Stewart/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chandra Powell holds her newborn baby girl days before she was found slain in her apartment.

"That girl, she fought. She fought hard. And it was brutal what they done to her. There was blood all over the walls. I mean, the ceiling," Stewart said.

"To me, the way everything was done, it had to be very personal. Someone with a lot of hate, a lot of anger. ... Beside where she was found near the coffee table was her wallet. It still had her credit cards in it. It still had money in it. Her keys to the car were on the table. There was nothing stolen out of that apartment. I mean absolutely nothing. ... It had to be someone she knew."

Area Battle, 63, lived next door to Powell but said she never heard a newborn's cries or Powell's screams through the apartment wall.

"I sit here and think that little baby was in the house and we didn't hear anything," she said. "Every time it crosses my mind, I keep them in my prayers. They're going to need them."

On Oct. 27, she heard Powell's children crying.

She made her way outside and found Powell's 11-year-old son on her porch, weeping.

"'I can't believe it,' he said," Battle recalled. "I asked him, 'What's wrong?' He said, 'I just don't want to talk about it. I need some water.'"

Battle went for a glass of water and returned.

"'That was the worst thing I ever seen. She had a hole in her head,'" she remembers the boy saying.

A friendly lady

A sparse casket floral arrangement and Styrofoam cross adorned with fake pink flowers marked Chandra Powell's burial site at Chattanooga Memorial Park Cemetery last week.

Chandra Powell was a friendly neighbor who always spoke in passing. Battle said the neighborhood children, including her own grandchildren, flocked to Powell's home.

"She was a friendly lady. The kids had to love her because they were always hanging around there," Battle said. "Nobody deserved that -- the way they did her."

Powell came to Chattanooga from Indiana in hopes of a fresh start. Stewart said she followed him after his 2009 move.

Within months of arriving, she was killed.

Chattanooga detectives are still waiting on evidence that was sent off to the crime lab in October.

"We sent a large number of items to be examined," said homicide Sgt. Bill Phillips, who would not disclose the items sent to the lab. Lab results can take up to four months to a year, he said.

Police have looked at a number of possible suspects, but they have not publicly named a suspect or made any arrests.

Stewart was questioned.

"They looked at me. [The detective] said, "I just got to ask you some questions and get some pictures and DNA just to rule you out and stuff.' I said, 'I'll do whatever it takes,'" Stewart said.

His co-workers at a local warehouse, where he is a supervisor, provided police with an alibi.

"Even the detective said, 'I can tell it wasn't you ... because your hands are too small.' There were no cuts or anything on me. She fought. And I know she would have. The type of mother and type of person she was," Stewart said.

Looking for clues

Detectives also have looked at one of Powell's other love interests.

"It's something we have looked into," Phillips said. "We've traveled to Indiana and done searches and interviews. We went to Atlanta. ... There's been a lot of man hours and work put into this case."

Stewart said Powell previously worked at a corrections facility in Pendleton, Ind., and helped care for inmates. He said she became romantically involved with a prisoner, Tyrone Thomas.

Thomas was in prison for his latest conviction of auto theft, according to Indiana Department of Corrections records.

He is the father of her youngest child, who is now 4 months old and in foster care in Chattanooga, Stewart said.

Thomas now resides in the Atlanta area and could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Stewart met Powell through her ex-husband, Steven Powell, after working with him in a warehouse, he said. He became friends with the couple and even went on family vacations where he brought along his fiancee at the time.

When the engagement was broken off, he moved in with the Powell family and lived with them for about two years, he said.

Powell's marriage ended after Steven Powell was charged with child molestation in 2007. He was convicted and sentenced in 2008. According to Indiana Department of Corrections records, his earliest release date possible is in February 2029.

Stewart and Powell remained close up to her death, he said.

"I have never met anyone like her, honestly," Stewart said. "Very giving. Very loving. Would help anyone. Very good heart and spirited lady. She would go overboard to help anyone. She was easy to talk to. She was just unlike anyone I've met in my life. She had such a love for me."

He said he helped care for the children and spent evenings at her residence with them until Powell returned home after working second shifts.

Stewart was granted custody of her five children about a week after Powell's death. The infant was removed about three weeks later. The rest of the children were placed into state custody Dec. 29, and Stewart said he was given little explanation. Three of the children are in Sale Creek. The oldest is in Sparta, Tenn., he said.

"Four days after Christmas they [the Department of Children's Services] called. They said they learned some news about some things that has happened with the kids in the past and they decided to pull them from me and split them up," Stewart said.

Stewart was acquitted by a jury of a child molestation charge in 2008 in Indiana, according to court documents. He said Saturday that none of the allegations involved Powell's children. Children's Services was aware of the court case, he said.

HOW TO HELP

Anyone with any information about Chandra Powell's slaying can contact Chattanooga Police Detective Alexis Mercado at 643-5362 or remain anonymous and possibly become eligible for a cash reward by calling Crime Stoppers at 423-698-3333.

Currently, his attempts to make contact with Children's Services have been unsuccessful, he said. He hopes to regain custody of the two boys, ages 11 and 8, and Powell's oldest daughter, who is 16. Powell's sister is trying to get custody of Powell's 15-year-old daughter, Stewart said.

"I think as all of them as my own anyway. They had a lot of pain in their young lives with things that's happened," he said.

No one responded to an interview request at Children's Services office in Nashville last week.

Reach staff writer Beth Burger at 423-757-6406 or bburger@timesfreepress.com.

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greenj76 said...

Very sad

February 13, 2011 at 1:05 a.m.
cannonball said...

I hope they catch this killer. Bless the children.

February 13, 2011 at 8:25 a.m.
bret said...

White woman slain = Front Page above the fold. Black woman slain = B7

February 13, 2011 at 12:37 p.m.
carri said...

It was possibly one of the guys from jail or one of the prisoners who got out and hurt her. or any other man in her life. what a sad thing to happen to her and her children.

February 13, 2011 at 11:49 p.m.
Echo said...

bret

Everybody's racist huh? Don't like the "racist" layout? Idea! Start you own rag. Hire some "journalists", maybe even some that can construct a sentence in a way the the reader can determine the subject, direct object, and the indirect object within the sentence. Bonus points for being able to ask a question.

Now you just need an audience, preferably literate, meaning most likely that they did not attend a public school in Chattanooga. The audience will have to be interested in whatever you put "above the fold". Try lottery numbers.

Your readers need money because advertisers can only sell things to people who can buy stuff. Your media product serving "your community" will have a measurable number of visitors. Each of the stories in your perfectly balanced media product can be measured for click through rates which determines the revenue you can charge for an advertisement appearing next to the stories you present.

So best of luck to you with your new publishing enterprise. I hope you become very prosperous by selling advertising for Kools, hair extensions, 22s, and gold teef.

February 14, 2011 at 12:42 a.m.

I believe this was a personal attack. I think whoever did this covered her up with the comforter because they must have known those kids were going to come in and find her. Something doesn't sit right with this Stewart either. He says he was acquitted in 2008 when the Herald Bulletin has him being acquitted in 2009. It was stated in the paper that Chandra was his girlfriend too. He leads this story to believe that he was just a "friend" of the family. How did this guy get temp custody of the kids? How was he able to file for insurance money on damages to the apartment. Why did the police officer make it a point to say, "You've got too small of hands"? I read the autopsy report and saw the coroners renderings of injuries, it said nothing about her being strangled, just stabbed. Why would Stewart's hands be "too small"? Something isn't adding up. I know it said he had an alibi for being at work, but did he leave for lunch? I'd check any tools he worked with/around. Perhaps a tool he used at his work is missing and that's the blunt object. Whoever killed Chandra knew her because it didn't appear to be any forced entry and her personal belongings were still there (as Stewart pointed out)Looking at the autopsy report, it appears that she must have just got done breastfeeding the baby (assuming the condition of her breasts warrants whether she was breast feeding or not) and perhaps laid her down to sleep prior to the attack because it says the baby was asleep in the bassinet. With the type of injury that was shown on the report (skull broken/brain exposed) the attack on her head alone you'd think would have killed her, but there were stab wounds about the head, neck and chest area. Stewart claims in the article that "she fought back hard" then why is it that there were no defense wounds noted on the autopsy report. I think him eluding to the fact that the baby was Tyrone Thomas' was to throw the police off. I will always think Stewart had something to do with this. I was a co worker of Chandra's when she lived in Anderson and this murder has bothered me since reading about it in the HB the day after it happened. I hope justice prevails and Chandra's murderer is put away for life. Google Stewarts name in the Herald Bulletin if you want to know the info on his court hearing and see for yourself that she was stated at that time to be his girlfriend.

February 16, 2011 at 11:13 p.m.

DISCLAIMER: This autopsy report is extremely graphic and not suitable for some viewers.

http://media.timesfreepress.com/docs/2010/11/powell.pdf

February 16, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.

and another thing...how does he know where she was found? I didn't read any reports that she was found "by the coffee table" as he stated. Unless the kids told him. How did he know. Why would the police allow him to come into the home and get personal items for the kids. You'd think they would secure the site for clues/dna. A police woman/officer could have gotten the items for the kids. I'm telling you, something doesn't sit right. There are too many questions.

February 16, 2011 at 11:27 p.m.
tyeg45 said...

I would like to comment on a statement made in this article saying that i could not be reached for comment. From the moment i first found out about this horrendous crime, i have been in contact with all the appropriate authorities, they have always had contact information for me. So i believe that if someone representing this newspaper would have tried to contact me, they would have gotten a hold of me, so to say that i could not be reached for comment, is so untrue.

February 18, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.
GodsChild said...

Ok Inchhighprivateeye... here are a few things for you to mull over as well. This article was rather poorly written in the first place if you ask me. But, here goes...

Why did Brad have pictures of her children on HIS apartment wall? Ginger (the dog) must have know the person who did this rather well to not attack. If they were just friends why did Brad refer to her as "the woman he loved" and make the statement "She had such a love for me." ?

If this was a fair reporter then why was there not a more eager attempt to contact Mr. Thomas? Why was there comments made about some of the father's of the children doing time? Why was that thrown in? Why didn't the reporter interview Tyrone Thomas prior to posting this article... in all fairness?

If the murderer wore gloves, there would be no cuts or bruises on that person and no finger prints found at the scene. Where is the evidence that she fought hard? How does anyone know whether she fought or not?

Why was Stewart allowed to disturb the crime scene to retrieve articles for the children and not an officer? Everyone knows that something like that can get a case thrown out on technicality for loosing the integrity of the scene.

My final question would be this... Would whom ever committed this horrendous crime have an issue with her because the baby's father is a black man?

Food for thought! The word of God says the truth will stand when the world is on fire and also that the truth will set you free.

As a friend of Tyrone's, I believe that we should continue to hold to the constitutional right that you are INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Innocent+until+proven+guilty

For the record, Tye has an alibi as well... he was at home with my son and I spoke with the two of them on the phone while I was at work that night.

God's Child

February 18, 2011 at 6:08 p.m.

ooh what a fabulous observation about the dog! You're so right!! I do believe that Mr. Thomas' name was thrown in there to "throw" the readers and police off. I totally agree with you on a lot of the points you made. (crime scene, evidence, the elusion of them being friends) your entire post asks and points out a lot of the same things. I'm glad this seemed a bit odd to someone else. I'm glad Mr. Thomas has an alibi too. I have a gut feeling on whom I think is the killer but like you said, innocent until proven guilty. I'm sure this person will be caught, there's no such thing as the perfect crime. I just hope that there is a follow up news article for when that happens. I really, really want to know who did this. I'm going with my gut though.

February 20, 2011 at 4:38 p.m.
InTheKnowNow said...

@Gods Child...You said he had an alibi, Well please explain why you said he was home with your son and you talked to both of them that NIGHT....her murder was during the day!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So that alibi is not very concrete.

February 21, 2011 at 11:31 a.m.

Might I add that the "Livor" color noted in the autopsy was stated to be "faint, pink/purple" which according coroners, this means that she had been dead less than four hours, which would mean that she had just been murdered right before the kids got home. I agree with Gods Child on a remark that was stated about the dog. Interesting. So sorry to hear that you weren't contacted Mr. Thomas. All I can say is I HOPE they get whomever did this.

February 22, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.
cdecker92 said...

I knew Chandra. I have been friends with her oldest daughter for 5 years. I also knew Brad and I can tell you he loved her very much. He is a good man and I know he wouldn't do such a thing.

I have been told by her daughter that a witness says that a neighbor was seen leaving her home about about an hour before the children found her. Sounds to me like he is the person they should be looking at, not Brad.

February 28, 2011 at 2:42 p.m.

Nope, I just don't believe it. We can all have our opinions and if the daughter has access to a witness of a neighbor leaving than they should be investigating that neighbor, but I have my gut feeling. This was a crime of passion. I'm sure he did love her very much.

February 28, 2011 at 5:37 p.m.
sistergurl said...

as a close family member of chandra's i have only to say this...you know who you are, you know what you have done, you are a sick person and i pray that when they find out who did this (and they will because the family will not give up) i hope that you are given the strongest sentence you can get...you probably think you are smart and in the clear because they haven't gotten you yet...but they will. i know you probably check up on all the posts to see if anybody suspects you...or to laugh at the pain you have caused our family. just remember...God sees everything. to everyone else, don't speculate, don't think that just because you think you know someone doesn't mean you do...it could be anybody.

March 3, 2011 at 7:43 p.m.

I hope the family doesn't give up because this person needs to be caught. It's a shame that baby Kaliah won't ever get to know first hand how fabulous her mama was. I know the other kids will keep her memory alive, but it's just not the same. I agree, God does see everything and I'm sure there is someone, somewhere walking around with a guilty conscience. I just want that person to give themselves up, it's only fair to Chandra and her kids. I'm sure they ARE reading every post and every bit of information on the case and getting a real high off of it, so to whomever you are, please PLEASE turn yourself in. I agree with you sistergurl, it could be anybody, I won't speculate anymore-although I have my own opinion/gut feeling, I will keep it to myself and just let the facts and investigation speak for themselves.

March 3, 2011 at 9 p.m.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1147608291310&set=a.1146396021004.2021307.1260652840&theaterI don't know if this was taken at her home or not but what about the angel back there. Wonder if anyone has checked to see if that's the object used. Just curious.

March 7, 2011 at 1:24 a.m.
GodsChild said...

InTheKnowNow... FYI & anyone else who wants the truth - I leave for work at 12:30. She was found around 2:30 - 4:30(I'm guessing) when the children came in from school. Due to the liver color she couldn't have been dead for more than 4 hours... I was home with my son and Tye until 12:30. How could he have done it if my family was there with him and it takes two hours to drive to Chattanooga from my home? If the murder took place in the time frame described (10am to 12pm) then it is impossible for it to have been Tyrone Thomas. He was present and accounted for from the time we got up that morning (I went to work) to when we all went to bed that night. Trust me... if there wan any doubt in my mind do you think he would still be my room mate? HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

March 11, 2011 at 2:02 p.m.

Thank you GodsChild for noting coroner found facts. Might I add that the coroner's report also states that she had pink foam coming from the wound to her neck. I don't think that foam would have been present if she had been dead for more than 4 hours. You would think it would have settled as all air bubbles eventually do burst. So I think she was killed very close to the children arriving home from school. I have my thoughts on who it is and it's not Mr. Thomas.

March 12, 2011 at 9:03 a.m.

Oh and just to clear up a few autopsy mysteries. The faded brown spots that is being referred to as contusions, might actually be from Intramuscular injections of medication. She just had a baby two weeks prior. Keeping having the baby in mind, perhaps she had a C-section. That would explain the comment about the dye on the trunk. Doctors use Betadine prior to abdominal surgeries, maybe that's the faded color that is found.

March 12, 2011 at 9:13 a.m.
copeland04 said...

@inchhighprivateeye: I am Chandra's sister-in-law. I know first hand that the family is NOT giving up till the monster who took Chandra from us is found and punished to the fullest extent possible. Her brother will not let the killer go free and is staying on top of things as much as he can. We also have our opinion/feelings on who did this and WHEN it comes out, we will make sure they pay for what they did. I don't know who you are personally but I would like to talk to you, message me privately or email me. lilmomma200369 at yahoo.

March 29, 2011 at 1:53 p.m.
007 said...

There's one Simple Way to Solve this Crime: Get all the suspects and one by one have them walk in a room where Ginger the dog is sitting. See which one she growls at and tries to attack.

July 26, 2011 at 12:56 a.m.
ImTellinYa said...

ok, now this... http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/oct/26/chattanooga-police-charge-man-raping-child/?breakingnews inchhighprivateeye I agree, something is just not right.

October 27, 2011 at 11:26 a.m.
InTheKnowNow said...
<p>@ImTellinYa....You are SO right. He is so so so guilty. I personally know him and I have thought he is guilty of a whole lot more. For instance getting away with molesting here in Indiana..He makes me sick.Hopefully things will star to be investigated again.

December 9, 2011 at 2:41 p.m.

YEAH BABY! I'm telling you all, right there's your murderer. End of story. Thank you ImTellinYa for giving me the link. I've been working on other cases and haven't had a chance to check back with this one. She's always on my mind though. I hope they hang him high. Child molesters and crimes against women criminals don't sit too well with other prisoners. Hopefully Chandra can rest in peace.

January 27, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.
SoIrritated said...

My name used to be InTheKnowNow..I just want to say. The Ex-Boyfriend (Brad) will be going to court on Oct 1st for the rape charges against her son...I hope he fries.

September 28, 2012 at 3:26 p.m.

I believe chandra's murderer is rotting in prison for molesting that 11 yr old in a motel. I hope they put the death sentence on him for her murder. I would LOVE to help try this case. He knows what he did. He knows he murdered chandra. I hope she can rest in peace. I pray that her family can heal from this needless absence and I hope those children get some much needed,I'm sure, counseling. When he gets convicted, this case will be CLOSED. Another BEAST off the streets.

November 13, 2012 at 4:33 p.m.
SoIrritated said...

This is just another FYI....Brad has been going back and forth to court. It seems to keep getting continued or something. His next court date is Aug 21 3013 (tomorrow)!!!! I have yet to figure out why this man walks the streets. HE IS SOOOOOOOOO GUILTY!! It just makes me sick. Why is he free? Why does the court keep letting him go on??? ARGHHHHHHHHH. Frustrating.

August 20, 2013 at 8:19 a.m.
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