published Friday, November 1st, 2013

Investigation ongoing in Rossville slaying

Brooke Burnette was giving her 2-year-old niece medicine to treat a stomachache around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday when she heard a loud bang.

The noise came from the other half of her Rossville duplex at 22 Fisher Road. This wasn't uncommon. The neighbors, Melvin Tibbs and Ashley Swafford, can be noisy. No big parties or violence, Burnette said. Just noisy.

But, this time, the neighbors were louder. Soon Burnette heard a second bang, this one so loud that the impact transferred through the wall to her side of the duplex, throwing bottles of Jack Daniel's and Jagermeister off a shelf.

In the living room of the other apartment, Anderson Trammel Watts Jr. lay dead, several .40-caliber bullets pumped into him as he tried to run away. As of press time Thursday, the Walker County Sheriff's Office does not know who fired the shots, or why.

On Thursday, friends flooded Watts' Facebook page with messages.

"We will dearly miss you Andy," Amber Kirby wrote to the 23-year-old. "We all have been through thick and thin together. You were always there for me."

Sheriff Steve Wilson said Swafford was not home at the time of the crime. Tibbs, 23, told investigators that he also was gone. He said he was walking his pit bull, Capone, when Watts died.

But the sheriff said this version of events is questionable. When she heard the two bangs Wednesday, Burnette said she also heard Capone barking. Soon after, she and her boyfriend saw Tibbs outside. He told them he couldn't find the dog.

Either way, Watts' death marks the second killing in Walker County this month. On Oct. 7, police say, Daniel Chad Marks killed the father of his girlfriend before taking his own life. Before then, Walker County had not seen such a crime since 2010.

Mike and Deborah Richards, who live across the street from where Wednesday's shooting occurred, did not know about the crime until investigators knocked on their door around 12:15 a.m.

The two sat on their front porch Thursday morning. They said they both are disabled, so this is what they do for much of the day: Watch neighbors pass by. They said this area's quiet.

"You never hear nothing, even on the weekends," Mike Richards said. "You never hear loud radios, nothing. That's why it shocked us."

"Everyone pretty much stays to themselves, you know?" said Deborah Richards.

She and her husband said they get along well with Swafford and Tibbs, who had been hosting Watts this week. Deborah Richards said that Watts seemed nice. She had seen him on the porch, "cutting up."

While investigators don't yet have a motive for the killing, Wilson said they are looking for one other person: Marcus Eugene Sutton, 20, a "potential witness" in the case.

Sutton, Tibbs and Watts all went to Ridgeland High School together. In 2010, Sutton was arrested for aggravated assault, possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime and carrying a weapon at school as part of two different incidents.

He was sent to Ware State Prison, where he was released Aug. 14. Wilson said Sutton is wanted on warrants charging that he fired shots at a Rossville apartment complex about two weeks ago.

The weapon in the apartment complex shooting fired .40-caliber bullets, the same type found near Watts' body Wednesday night.

Watts also had a criminal history. In 2009, he allegedly tried to sell marijuana to somebody. When that person grabbed the drugs and ran away, Watts chased him with a shotgun. According to police records, he told an investigator that he shot at the thief, accidentally hitting another man instead.

After the shots Wednesday night, Burnette, the neighbor, said she and her boyfriend found Tibbs outside, distraught. He could barely talk.

Burnette's boyfriend, who also graduated from Ridgeland High School, eventually walked into Tibbs' house. There, he pleaded with Watts.

"Andy," he said. "Get up."

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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