The death of a 29-year-old mother of three brought family and friends to hysterical tears and anger that words could not express just hours after her body was found in a local hotel.
Word traveled quickly among those who knew Meco Siler, and more than a dozen family and friends crowded the parking lot of Country Hearth Suites on East 20th Street, near the room where police searched for evidence Thursday afternoon.
"They called me, said something happened to her," Siler's cousin Carolyn Dyer said quietly as tears dripped down her face. "I just came down and found out."
About 2 p.m., a female cleaning employee at the 101 E. 20th St. extended-stay hotel opened the door of Room 233 to find Siler face down in front of the bloodied bed. She immediately called police.
"She saw a person down on the floor, saw blood on the bed, called 911. They asked, 'Can you start CPR?' and she said, 'No, it's beyond CPR,'" said Assistant Police Chief Tim Carroll.
Chattanooga homicide investigators and crime-scene specialists blocked the second-floor apartment with yellow tape and were still gathering evidence three hours after officers arrived.
"We don't know if she was beaten, possibly stabbed or both," Carroll said. "Of course, we're trying to determine that right now."
The chief said detectives were interviewing hotel occupants, employees, family and friends.
"One of the family members made the comment, 'Everybody knows everything that goes on in this place, but nobody knows what happened to her,; that don't make sense,'" Carroll said. "I told the guy, 'We deal with that every day.'"
Police were safeguarding Siler's children until the Department of Children's Services could determine who would take care of them.
Carroll did not have exact ages available but said Siler has a son either 8 or 9 years old and a younger son, both of whom were in school when Siler's body was found.
Dyer said her cousin also has a teenage daughter.
Natasha Wright, another of Siler's cousins, said the news was "devastating" and she worried about her aunt, Siler's mother, who lives in Chattanooga and lost a son a few years ago.
A friend of Siler's, who declined to give her name, found the entire scene hard to grasp.
"I got to be pinched. Somebody slap me. This don't feel like it's real," the woman said.