Hamilton County Grand Jury adds defendant, more charges in new gang racketeering indictment

Cortez Sims is arraigned via remote video in Judge Tom Greenholtz's courtroom in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Courts Building on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Forty-five of the alleged Athens Park Blood gang members indicted last month on RICO charges were arraigned Friday.

Gang members charged with murder

› Eric McReynolds for the Jan. 10, 2013, murder of Edward Glenn Jr.› Cortez Sims for the Jan. 20, 2014, murder of 13-year-old Deontray Southers.› Cordelle Collier, Martrel Arnold, and Johnny Clemons for the June 25, 2014 murder of Cedric Mikes.› Andre Grier, Charles Shelton, and Courtney High, who each could face the death penalty for the May 25, 2016 murder of Bianca Horton. Horton was killed to prevent her from testifying at trial that she witnessed Cortez Sims murder Talitha Bowman. (Last year a jury convicted Sims of Bowman’s murder.)› Courtney High for the June 12, 2016 murder of Jerica Jackson. This is a superseding indictment to High’s original charge, which adds the RICO elements to the murder.› Courtney High for the August 16, 2016 murder of Marquise Jackson. Additionally, a female teenager was charged today in Hamilton County Juvenile Court for participating in Jackson’s murder. (Note: Marquise Jackson is not related to Jerica Jackson.)

In a superseding indictment filed Tuesday, a Hamilton County grand jury added a defendant and piled on more charges against the Athens Park Bloods gang members who are being prosecuted as a criminal enterprise under the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.

A 55th unidentified defendant was added to the 54 who were indicted in March, and collectively they are now facing 25 different charges, rather than 13 under the original indictment.

The new defendant hasn't been identified because that person has not yet been arrested.

In the new, 36-page presentment, one of the original 13 charges was removed. In its place are a slew of new charges ranging from possession of cocaine for resale to solicitation and facilitation of first-degree murder.

Of the original seven who were charged with murder, an eighth person has been added. Eric McReynolds is accused of killing Edward Glenn Jr. during a robbery in January 2013.

In the new presentment, prosecutors included more specifics for each person's prior charged crimes and how they relate to gang activity.

That information was missing for a majority of defendants in the previous indictment, something criminal justice experts previously told the Times Free Press is a fairly common approach. If a case drags on with vague information, a defendant might be more likely to flip and testify against someone else. It's the same strategy federal prosecutors used to take down mob bosses and leaders of other criminal syndicates.

A court date for the new charges has not yet been set, according to online Hamilton County Court records.

The indictment stems from a coordinated effort that began months ago when Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy and District Attorney General Neal Pinkston decided to use the district attorney's cold case unit to review a string of unsolved homicides.

A spokeswoman for the DA declined to comment.

Prosecutors say the street gang is responsible for murdering a state witness, starting fires, robbing houses, conspiring with other alleged members to sell drugs, and helping other alleged associates bond out of jail.

Tuesday's indictment was filed a day before the state filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Andre Grier, 31; Charles Shelton, 28; and Courtney High, 27. The men are accused of killing 26-year-old Bianca Horton to prevent her from testifying against fellow gang member Cortez Sims, who was accused of shooting Horton's daughter and killing another woman, 20-year-old Talitha Bowman.

Sims was convicted of Bowman's murder last year and is serving a life sentence at a state prison.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.