East Ridge slaying sent to grand jury

East Ridge slaying sent to grand jury

July 27th, 2011 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

Randall Kenneth Reed

The case against a man accused of killing a 70-year-old East Ridge woman was bound over to the Hamilton County grand jury Tuesday.

Randall Reed, 43, has been charged with first-degree murder in the June 15 suffocation death of Jane Stokes. He also is charged with aggravated robbery and taking her credit cards and using them within hours after her death.

East Ridge City Court Judge Arvin Reingold bound the case over after listening to testimony from an East Ridge detective and Reed's former employer in a preliminary hearing.

A neighbor had found Stokes' body the morning after Stokes had failed to show up for her longtime job at a Chattanooga accounting office, her face secured with plastic wrap and her wrists bound behind her back.

During questioning from Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Darren Gibson, Detective Gwen Cribbs described the scene where Stokes was found in her bedroom at her longtime home on Hardin Drive.

Cribbs said police believe the cling-wrap was Stokes' own. "The roll was still hanging about the head. It wasn't even torn off," Cribbs said.

Cribbs testified it looked as if Stokes was killed in the middle of her morning routine before heading to work. Curlers were still in Stokes' hair, and her makeup mirror was on when detectives arrived on the scene.

Police found Stokes' purse open and her billfold lying nearby and all the electronics still were in the house.

"The only signs of struggle were the rollers on the floor," Cribbs said. She said a medical examiner's report stated that Stokes' death occurred between 5 and 7 a.m.

At 6:51 a.m. that morning, Reed was recorded using Stokes' credit card at a SunTrust bank branch. Reed subsequently was recorded using the card at several other Chattanooga banks.

He turned himself in to East Ridge police June 16 after family members identified his picture after it appeared in the media.

He told police that a drug dealer had called him to the SunTrust parking lot, where Reed used the card to withdraw cash for a cocaine deal.

But Cribbs said the phone they traced to Reed had been quiet except for 10 minutes after midnight; the phone was dead until 6:52 a.m., when it showed over a dozen calls being made to the drug dealer.

Hamilton County Public Defender Alan Dunn challenged the allegation that the phone calls connected Reed to Stokes' killing.

Cribbs also said the same plastic zip ties bound around Stokes' wrist were the same as ones they found at Reed's parents' house, where he lived before checking into a hotel the same day as Stokes' death.

Reed's former employer, Chris Moffat, also testified, telling Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Jason Demastus that he and a crew that included Reed had worked on Stokes' storm-damaged home the last week of May.

He said Reed had told him he had interacted with Stokes during that time.