Defendant Brandon Russell appears in Judge Christie Mahn Sell's courtroom Tuesday where he was bound over to the grand jury during a preliminary hearing on murder charges in the stabbing death of Meco Siler at the Country Hearth Suites on 20th St. in downtown Chattanooga on Jan. 6.Staff Photo by John Rawlston
While trying to buy more crack cocaine, the defendant in a slaying case grabbed the dealer in a headlock and began stabbing her in the throat, according to an eyewitness.
Brandon Eugene Russell, 29, stood handcuffed and shook his head at times in disbelief Tuesday during his preliminary hearing as police witness Joseph Fields told the judge what he says happened on Jan. 6 when Meco Siler was killed.
The killing of Siler, who had three children, was the first homicide of the year in Hamilton County.
“I don’t know why he did what he did,” Fields said, visibly shaken during his testimony. “What happened to her could have happened to my wife.”
Following the 45-minute hearing, General Sessions Court Judge Christie Mahn Sell decided there was enough evidence to send the case to the grand jury.
Russell was on parole from state prison on an armed robbery conviction at the time of Siler’s death.
Fields told Sell and Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston that he and Russell had smoked crack for about an hour in Fields’ room on the third floor of Country Hearth Suites before they ran out of the drug. He said he called Siler, 29, to get more “on credit.”
According to Fields, as he stood in Siler’s doorway, Russell barged in behind and “knocked [Fields] into the room.” “Then I saw him hit her and throw her between the two beds and the dresser,” Fields said.
A medical examiner’s report showed 36 stab wounds to Siler’s neck and cuts to her hands where police say she tried to fight off the attack.
A few days later, police received a call on an attempted suicide, which turned out to be Russell, who had cut his wrists. He was arrested Jan. 10 in connection with Siler’s death.
During a two-hour interrogation, Russell confessed to stabbing Siler twice, Chattanooga Police Detective Alexis Mercado said.
“He used the phrase that he ‘blacked out,’” the detective said.
Russell’s defense attorney Kevin Loper challenged points of Field’s testimony and referred to a written account of Russell’s statement to police that said that the pair had planned to rob Siler.
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 ...