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Emily Brooks Johnson

The case of a 26-year-old woman accused of shooting her boyfriend to death in a Hixson Pike gas station is heading to a Hamilton County grand jury.

After a two-hour preliminary hearing, Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck said there was enough probable cause to continue Emily Leanne Brooks' case.

She is charged with criminal homicide and possession of a firearm with intent to go armed in connection with the July 21 incident.

Prosecutors say Brooks shot Eric Burchfield, 28, in the back at a Circle K gas station and was later found with a .380-caliber weapon that matched a shell casing found at the scene. Police officers tracked her cellphone to a trailer park off Tall Pine Lane after speaking to Burchfield's family, prosecutors said.

During that conversation, a family member said Brooks was the killer. The family member also gave a physical description that lined up with what an eyewitness said at the Circle K gas station, prosecutors said.

At the trailer park, officers handcuffed Brooks but didn't mention anything about the homicide, Chattanooga Detective Phillip McClain testified. He was one of two witnesses for the state.

When Brooks tried to run toward her backpack about 30 feet away, officers found a .380-caliber weapon in the front pouch, McClain said. Police also located Winchester rounds — the same manufacturer of the .380-caliber projectile found at the gas station.

Public defender Coty Wamp challenged the prosecution's evidence.

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Eric Christopher Burchfield

First, she said, one of the state's eyewitnesses, Holly Simpson, identified the wrong person during a photo lineup. Simpson testified Tuesday that she overheard Brooks before the shooting saying a few phrases on the phone: "boyfriend," "I don't know," and then "drugs."

Then, Wamp argued, Burchfield's mother told police Brooks was responsible based on no other information. Finally, officers never obtained gas station footage that might have showed what happened. Plus, the firearm manufacturer and caliber were pretty standard.

"When they detain her they know nothing, except they have a description from a witness who identified the wrong person in a lineup," Wamp argued to Shattuck.

Shattuck said testimony revealed that any gas station footage didn't have the scope to capture the incident. The judge said he had "great questions" about guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But this early into a case, he only needed to determine whether there was probable cause.

Did a crime happen? And did the probable cause point to the defendant?

Yes, Shattuck said, and he sent both charges to the grand jury.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

This story was updated Aug. 29 at 11:35 p.m.

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