A man charged in the stabbing death of a 29-year-old mother of three in a local hotel last week is a convicted robber on parole who had served less than two years of his eight-year sentence.
Brandon Eugene Russell, 29, is being held on a $300,000 bond on felony murder and robbery charges in the death of Meco Siler. He has a Hamilton County General Sessions Court appearance scheduled for Feb. 1 before Judge Christine Mahn Sell.
Russell was paroled from the Tennessee Department of Correction on July 12, 2010, about 18 months after he pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to serve eight years in prison.
As of July 2010, state law requires that offenders convicted of aggravated robbery must serve 70 percent of their sentences. Before then, an offender could serve as little as 20 percent of the sentence.
Aggravated robbery was not included in a list of 15 crimes that required 100 percent of time to be served under a 1995 law.
Hamilton County District Attorney General Bill Cox would not comment Wednesday on Russell's case. But in annual meetings with the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board over nearly a dozen years, Cox — along with sheriffs and police chiefs — has advocated increasing the minimum time served on armed robbery.
Chattanooga police arrested Russell at 442 Roberts St. on Sunday night, three days after a housekeeper found Siler's body in Room 233 of the Country Hearth Suites. Siler had lived at the extended-stay hotel at 101 E. 20th St. for at least two months, said her mother, Brenda Young.
Young did not return calls Wednesday afternoon.
According to the arrest report, investigators learned that two men were seen leaving Siler's hotel room about 8 a.m. Jan. 6. The day after Siler's body was found, police received information that a man who went by the name "Big Baby" or "Fat Daddy" had killed her, Investigator Alexis Mercado wrote in the report.
Witness Joseph Fields told police that he saw Russell punch Siler in the face, put her in a choke hold, "then pull a knife out and stab her in the neck area," Mercado wrote.
The report stated that Fields said Russell told him before the attack that he was going to rob Siler.
In the report, Fields said Russell stole drugs from Siler's room by tossing them out the door. Fields said he carried the drugs to his hotel room and minutes later Russell came in, asking where the drugs were. Russell then fled, leaving his keys behind, Fields said in the report.
The report did not say what kind of drugs the men stole.
Capt. David Woosley, head of major crimes, said investigators don't know if the attacker planned ahead of time to kill Siler.
"We know his initial intent was to rob her," Woosley said.
As of Wednesday, police had not recovered the murder weapon, believed to be a knife.
Hamilton County medical examiner's staff said Wednesday that the initial report on Siler's death was unavailable.
According to county court records, Russell also pleaded guilty to a robbery in 2004. His three-year prison term was suspended and replaced with six years probation, records show.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...