Woman blames police attitude for overlooked shell casing in Fennell shooting

Woman blames police attitude for overlooked shell casing in Fennell shooting

July 6th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in News

Sharda Stoudemire talks Tuesday about the shooting of her boyfriend, Melvin "Brando" Fennell, on Arlington Avenue.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Sharda Stoudemire's 4-year-old daughter can't understand why her father isn't waiting for her at home.

"She said, 'Mama, where's my daddy?'" Stoudemire said Tuesday. "I explained to her daddy's dead. He won't be home anymore."

Since the two were freshmen in high school, Stoudemire had been with Melvin "Brando" Fennell. The couple, both 25, had five children ages 2 to 7.

Now all five are without a father.

On Saturday night, Fennell was shot multiple times in the chest on the front porch of his Arlington Avenue home while his children were inside.

So far there are no suspects in Fennell's death, something Stoudemire chalks up to a police force that she said doesn't care about the people in East Chattanooga. She said she found a shell casing on the property after police had finished searching.

"For me to still find a shell, they just didn't care," she said.

Chattanooga Police Department Sgt. Jerri Weary said officers were handling the investigation just as they would any other homicide.

"Our officers were out there looking from when the shooting happened at 10:21 p.m. well into the next morning," she said. "Without any witnesses to tell us how many shots were fired, how do we know the number of bullets? How do we know the number of fragments we're looking for? When you're looking in the dark, it's hard to recover [shell casings]."

Though Stoudemire was shocked anyone would want to hurt a man loved by neighborhood kids because he played sports with them, she said the fact that his family was at home at the time of the shooting showed Fennell likely had no idea danger was imminent.

Fennell put his family above everything else, Stoudemire said, and never would let them hang around if he thought there was a chance of trouble.

"He'd have taken us to his mom's house," she said. "That's what we'd done the other times there were shootings."

Fennell's death marks the 15th homicide this year in Chattanooga, several of which occurred within a few blocks of the family's home.

After Saturday, Stoudemire decided to move the family away from the area and was looking for living space Tuesday in East Ridge.

Fennell had been doing his best to keep his children out of trouble, making sure the five were involved in sports and other school activities, Stoudemire said, but he wasn't without his own run-ins with the law. Fennell's adult criminal record shows more than 20 charges since 2005, including assault, vandalism and disorderly conduct.

At the time of his death, he was completing three months' probation for drug possession, records show.