A 32-year-old man pleaded guilty this week to stabbing a woman to death in 2011 at the Country Hearth Inn and Suites extended-stay motel near the intersection of East 20th and Market streets.
Brandon Eugene Russell pleaded Wednesday to second-degree murder in the Jan. 6, 2011, death of Meco Siler and was sentenced to 20 years
Russell told police shortly after his arrest that he'd stabbed Siler, 29. He had faced a first-degree murder trial in November but it was bumped for another trial.
Bill Speek, Russell's attorney, said after the Wednesday hearing that his client contends an eyewitness against him was responsible for the death. But, Speek said, the witness has never been charged and his testimony along with Russell's statement to police would have been tough obstacles to face in a trial.
Prosecutor Lance Pope said that even though he had that testimony and evidence, there were enough inconsistencies that a plea to second-degree murder was preferable to a trial.
Pope addressed Speek's comment about the witness, Joseph Fields, directly.
"There's no proof that [Fields] had any role in Meco Siler's homicide," Pope said.
Fields, 45, testified in a preliminary hearing that he and Russell went to buy drugs from Siler at her third-floor hotel room and that Russell attacked and stabbed Siler.
A medical examiner's report revealed 36 stab wounds to Siler's body.
Stern ordered Russell to serve a 20-year sentence consecutive to a previous 8-year sentence for a separate aggravated robbery charge. Russell was on parole at the time of Siler's death.
Under Tennessee law, Russell must serve 85 percent of the 20-year sentence before being considered for parole.
Pope said Siler's mother was present for the hearing. She had been informed of the plea agreement beforehand and supported the decision.
Had Russell been convicted at trial he would have received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. In Tennessee that requires 51 years of prison time.
Contact staff writer Todd South at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP