Rosa Chatman, 56, was killed by a man she'd been in a relationship with — on again, off again — for 20 years, Chattanooga police said Tuesday.
Investigators arrested Bruce Stevenson, 58, and charged him with criminal homicide and aggravated assault in Chatman's April death. Tuesday night he sat behind bars at the Hamilton County Jail on a bond of more than $1 million.
Police believe Stevenson killed Chatman inside her College Hill Courts apartment sometime before she was found lying face down in a pool of dried blood on April 15. Chattanooga police Investigator Lucas Fuller said multiple eyewitnesses, physical evidence and accounts from people who were closest to Chatman led police to Stevenson.
The grandmother and long-time volunteer at Woodmore Elementary School was beaten so severely that her skull fractured and she suffered bleeding around her brain. She was naked when she was discovered during a routine inspection by Chattanooga Housing Authority employees on April 15, and she had a six-inch gash in her neck.
Days before her body was found, Stevenson called Chapman and ordered her to leave a family gathering and return to her apartment, according to an arrest affidavit. Police say he was adamant that he did not call her, but phone records show that he did.
"All contact via cellular phone records cease on the day she is ordered home by [Stevenson] which is consistent with the approximate time frame of death provided by the Hamilton County Medical Examiner," the affidavit states.
Stevenson also allegedly lied about not having visited Chapman's apartment the day before her body was found, but eventually admitted that he was there on April 14, according to the affidavit. The Hamilton County medical examiner believes that Chapman was already deceased at this time.
Chapman and Stevenson have children together, and friends and family told police she confided in them about the abuse she continually endured from Stevenson, and police say text message evidence supports these claims.
There is a record of documented domestic violence between the two, Fuller said, but at this point, police aren't sure what may have motivated Stevenson to attack Chatman.
"Evidence pending at the TBI crime lab will further dictate exactly what took place," he said.
Days after Chatman was found dead, neighbors told the Times Free Press that she had asked them to call the police if they ever heard someone "beating up on her."
Stevenson is a registered sex offender in Tennessee and was convicted of two counts of rape in 1990. He is classified as an active, violent offender and last checked in with the registry on March 26, according to state records.
He was charged with aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping in Hamilton County in 1990. He pleaded guilty to rape and kidnapping and was sentenced to five years for the kidnapping and eight years for the rape.
A jury also convicted Stevenson of attempted second-degree murder in 1998 after he was initially charged with attempted first-degree murder. The sentence he received was not immediately available on Tuesday evening.
Stevenson was convicted of violating the sex offender registry in 2008 and sentenced to two years.
Chatman was a grandmother to 14 kids and loved to dance, her daughter, Roshandra Stallworth, said shortly after Chatman died. Stallworth could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Chatman was the ninth person slain in Chattanooga during 2015 and was the last of three people to die during a particularly violent week in April, when the city saw three homicides in five days.
So far this year, 11 people have been killed in Chattanooga. At this time last year, 14 people had been killed.
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