Updated at 8:15 p.m. on Friday, July 20, 2018, with information about the verdict.
A 50-year-old man is returning to life in prison after jurors convicted him Friday of first-degree murder in the 2011 slaying of an elderly East Ridge woman.
After roughly five hours of deliberation, a Hamilton County jury said Randall Reed was guilty of entering Jane Stokes' home on June 15, 2011, binding her hands with zip ties, stealing her debit card and PIN number, and then wrapping her head in cellophane, causing her to suffocate.
Reed will be sentenced for his other convictions, aggravated robbery and misdemeanor theft, on Sept. 27 in Hamilton County Criminal Court before Judge Tom Greenholtz. Before the trial began Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to his four counts of fraudulent use of a debit card.
Reed, who was previously convicted of the murder in 2013, returned to Hamilton County after the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals said a local judge allowed prosecutors to improperly mention a polygraph examination to jurors. In Tennessee courts, polygraphs are considered inadmissible evidence. Prosecutors began retrying Reed on Tuesday and argued that authorites found Stokes' makeup and DNA on his shirt, and that a bag of zip ties in his family home matched the zip ties found on the deceased. Plus, prosecutors said, Reed worked at the home in April or May on a fence and knew Stokes.
"He went there that morning with those zip ties to take those things from her. And the proof you have seen shows that he did it," said Assistant District Attorney Jason Demastus. "And after he did that, he went around her home, tried to figure out what he'd do next. So he walked down the hallway, into the kitchen, opened up those drawers. And as you saw from the evidence, he found that wrapper, the cellophane. And he walked right back down that hallway, to her room, knowing full well that he was going to wrap her head in that cellophane."
Throughout the trial, Reed and his attorneys countered that a different person held the blame: Reed's drug dealer, who prosecutors suspected could be Milo Geiger. But according to a Times Free Press article from 2013, Geiger took the stand at Reed's first trial and denied knowing him or Stokes.
According to Reed, who took the stand Thursday, he spent June 14, 2011, with his ex-wife in a motel in East Ridge. Geiger swung by, supplied him with drugs, and called his hotel line the next morning with a proposition: Use a debit card to withdraw money in exchange for crack cocaine.
Reed, who'd been struggling with addiction since the age of 18, said he met his dealer at a bank on Brainerd Road around 6:30 a.m., used the card at a few ATMS, and later turned himself in to authorities on June 16, 2011, when local media began circulating his picture. During the car ride, he said, Geiger bumped into him, transferring Stokes' DNA onto his clothes. But worse, his attorneys said Friday during closing arguments, investigating East Ridge detectives neglected to collect and analyze certain pieces of evidence, including a reddish handprint on Stokes' front door, nor did they follow up on leads that Reed gave them about Geiger.
"Let's use our common sense to determine what we think [the detective] should have done when [Mr. Reed] agreed to set Milo up right then and there," Wise said. "She should have done it right then and there. That's common sense."
But in their final argument to jurors, prosecutors nixed that idea, saying that Reed had changed various details in his story between 2011 and now. For example, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Coyle said, Reed told jurors he rode around with Geiger in a white SUV, which matched one of the vehicles spotted by an ATM from which Reed withdrew money. But when Reed spoke to Gwen Cribbs, then a detective for the East Ridge Police Department, he never mentioned that Geiger drove a white SUV, Coyle said.
When she testified earlier in the week, Cribbs said she also studied phone records between Reed and Geiger that disputed Reed's claim that Geiger contacted him.
"This case, as much as [the defense] [makes] it about an individual named Milo, whom he doesn't know, whom he couldn't find," Coyle began before trailing off and putting a picture of Stokes, lying on the floor, cellophane over her face, underneath the projector.
"I'd ask that we look at this for a second," he said. "It's hard. Seven years and it's still hard to look at here, at 600 Market St., miles and miles away from Hardin Drive.
"He was there," Coyle continued. "He saw that. He heard her trying to breath through that cellophane as she tried to escape those zip ties how do you do that? He walked out of that door while she was suffocating to death."
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.