CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Deweana "Mimi" Biddwell thinks two women are dead and her brother is clinging to life at Erlanger hospital for the oldest reason in the world.
The night before Stephen Jacob Reed is said to have slashed Crystal York and Crystal Canino to death and critically wounded Anthony Beck, Biddwell said she heard him utter chilling, prophetic words.
"He said, 'If I can't have her, nobody can,'" Biddwell said Friday, standing at the mailbox across the street from her Springbrook Apartments home a day after chaos and violent death rocked the small neighborhood just off APD 40.
The neighborhood looked peaceful and undisturbed; no crime scene tape or evidence flags. Only a splash of dried blood on a door sill, above a stair landing holding pots of tulips and a jaunty little sign, "Welcome to my garden," showed where the attack took place.
Biddwell and her neighbor, Stephanie Wilson, said folks in the curving street of fourplex apartments knew Reed, 24, was trouble.
Wilson's apartment is just across a patch of green lawn and at eye level with Apt. 68, where York and Beck were living, and catty-corner from Biddwell's unit across the parking lot.
"He's been a problem person for a long time," Wilson said. "It's what Jacob's known for — being violent and using a lot of drugs."
Reed, 24, hung out with the women and Beck, Biddwell said. But he was jealous of Beck's relationship with York.
Authorities certainly knew who Reed was. His criminal history starts when he was 18 and includes charges in Bradley and Hamilton counties.
They are mostly misdemeanors, but include multiple assault, attempted assault and domestic assault charges, along with false imprisonment, theft and burglary counts. He'd just been bailed out of jail Wednesday on felony domestic violence charges involving an attack on his father.
Wilson said she and her downstairs neighbor saw Reed very early Thursday morning — between 5 and 6 a.m., she said — pacing the lawn between her building and York's, staring at York's door.
About 11:45 that morning, Wilson said, she'd just put some food on to cook when she heard yelling. She looked out and saw a bleeding Beck run down the stairs from No. 68 and across the lawn toward the street, with Reed in pursuit.
"You could tell he was cut pretty bad," she said.
Biddwell didn't know anything was happening, she said, until "my brother busted in my door covered with blood, screaming for help, saying Jacob was after him."
She said Beck took two steps and fell. She saw a gaping slash on his torso and rushed to put pressure on the wound, dialing 911 on her phone at the same time.
"He said, 'Jacob got me good,'" Biddwell remembers.
She looked out and saw Reed in her front yard. She heard him yell, 'Mimi, help me, please, call the cops."
Instead, she worked to stanch the bleeding and keep her brother alive until ambulance crews arrived a few minutes later. Beck remains in critical condition at Erlanger, with what Biddwell said was a punctured lung and other wounds.
Meanwhile, practically everybody in the neighborhood had their phones out, calling 911, Wilson said.
She said Reed came to her apartment and asked her to let him in to wash his hands, but she wouldn't. She saw him turn back to the street just as law officers drove up and took him into custody.
The police affidavit of complaint filed by Detective Daniel Gibbs of the Cleveland Police Department said Reed's pants were torn, he had blood on his clothing and a cut on his hand.
When police went to Apt. 68, they found Canino, 33, and York, 35, with multiple stab wounds, Gibbs wrote. Canino was already dead and York was pronounced dead at Tennova Hospital in Cleveland. Both women's children were in school when their mothers were slain, Wilson and Biddwell said.
Gibbs wrote that he tried to interview Reed at the Cleveland Police Department after giving him a Miranda warning.
He said Reed told him he was in Apt. 68 with York, Canino and Beck when "something happened and the next thing he can remember is he is running away from the apt."
Reed told Gibbs the three people were his friends, and he didn't know how he got the cuts on his hands or the blood on his clothing, the affidavit states.
Reed, who is also known as Jacob Gaddis, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree attempted murder.
Steve Crump, district attorney for the 10th Judicial District, said Friday morning the investigation was still in the early stages. He said officers hadn't yet found the weapon used in the attack or been able to speak to Beck, and the crime scene covers two apartments and 50 to 75 yards of ground between the two.
"It's a big scene so law enforcement has a fair amount of hand- and footwork to see if they can get there and cover all that ground. Right now, it's just a tangled mess," he said.
Crump praised the "impressive cooperation" of the Cleveland Police Department and Bradley County Sheriff's Office investigative teams, who he said "meshed together incredibly well," and credited Cleveland Chief Mark Gibson and Bradley Sheriff Eric Watson.
"I've not seen this level of cooperation as long as I've been practicing here," he said.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.