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A Chattanooga man is accused of killing 36-year-old Lucius Moss in 2013 and then attempting to burn down a duplex with Moss' body inside.

Ellis Thornhill, 38, was booked Friday on charges of first-degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated arson, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse.

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Ellis Thornhill

After Chattanooga police found Moss' body inside a burned brick duplex at 1802 Wilcox Blvd. on Feb. 7, 2013, neighbors said the man had been killed after an argument.

Hamilton County Medical Examiner James Metcalfe found that Moss was stabbed 17 times and suffered blunt-force trauma from an additional six blows.

Chattanooga firefighters found Moss dead on the kitchen floor after a passerby noticed flames and called for help. Moss' body was partially burned.

Thornhill is already incarcerated and serving a six-year sentence on a robbery charge from March 2013. His bond on the new charges was set at $200,000.

Initial court filings do not say what evidence prompted police to charge Thornhill with the crime. Thornhill's mother, Annie Carswell, said she doesn't believe her son could be a killer.

"I can't see my son killing nobody," she said. "My son is a loving boy. He's compassionate. I mean he'll give you the shirt off his back."

Carswell said the Moss homicide case was initially assigned to Karl Fields, the Chattanooga police detective who is under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation after a woman said in 2014 that the detective had an inappropriate relationship with her while he worked her rape case.

Carswell said Fields has been bothering her for the past two years. Once, when she was in court for a hearing related to her son's robbery charge, Fields made sure she saw a folder with Lucius Moss' name on it, even though her son had not been charged, she said.

"Him and another officer turned around, looked right over at me and I saw the name printed on the outside of the folder," she said. "And I was like, what, is he trying to intimidate me?"

And about a year later, she said, a group of officers showed up at her house looking for Thornhill -- even though he had been in prison for months.

"They didn't knock or anything, my neighbor told me to look outside and there were four or five police cars out there," she said. "I opened the door and said, 'What is going on?' And they said, 'Is Ellis Thornhill here?' And I was like, 'Did he escape or something? He's already in jail.'"

She said she later found out that Fields sent the officers to her house and believes it was another attempt to intimidate her.

Fields was placed on administrative leave in September 2014 pending the results of the TBI's investigation and is no longer working cases, Chattanooga police spokesman Kyle Miller said Monday. Any active cases he was working have been assigned to other officers, including Moss' homicide.

Fields' police work has been questioned multiple times in court since the rape victim's allegations came to light.

Thornhill is scheduled to appear in front of Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern on Friday.

Contact staff reporter Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.

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