Neighbors mourn slain East Ridge woman

Neighbors mourn slain East Ridge woman

June 17th, 2011 by Beth Burger in News

The death of a 70-year-old women found dead in her home on Wednesday on Hardin Drive in East Ridge has been ruled as a homicide. This comes after extensive crime scene analysis by East Ridge criminal investigators and the result of an autopsy performed by the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office. Investigators found the victim lying in her bedroom with plastic around her face. Also the victim's hands were bound together. The women appeared to be the victim of a robbery. Investigators working through the night found that the victim's credit card had been used at several locations in the Chattanooga area. This is a photograph of a suspect captured by an ATM camera when the victim's credit card was used. East Ridge Police is asking anyone with information about this man or this incident to contact the East Ridge Police Department at 867-3718. Also after business hours East Ridge dispatch can be reached at 622-1725. A confidential tip line is also available at 867-0016.

"Why Jane?"

Jean Simmons asked that question Thursday while standing on her front porch, staring across the street at the home of her neighbor for 35 years.

On Wednesday, Jane Stokes, 70, was found slain inside the small frame house on Hardin Street in East Ridge, the home where she had spent more than half her life with her husband.

Police said an assailant forced his way in, covered her face in plastic and bound her hands.

The motive appears to be robbery. East Ridge Police Department spokesman Erik Hopkins said police have photos from a surveillance camera showing a man using Stokes' credit card at an ATM. Her credit cards also were used throughout Chattanooga, he said.

Simmons said Stokes' husband died several years ago. She worked at a certified public accountant's office near Warehouse Row, Simmons said. Stokes took trips with her two daughters and spent time with them last weekend, her neighbor said.

"She was a nice lady," Simmons said.

Simmons said she arrived home Tuesday night from vacation. Wednesday, she and other neighbors watched as officers taped off Stokes' property.

"This is something you would never, ever really thought would ever happen," Simmons said after unlocking numerous layers of locks on her front door just to enter.

Simmons, who lives with her husband, said she doesn't feel as safe in her own home. She is considering arming herself with a gun.

"If somebody comes in my house, it's going to be available," she said. "What other protection is there? It will just be a defense - a security."

Police have asked the public to help in the case.

"I'm optimistic that someone will recognize him and call in," said Hopkins.