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Linda Post looked through family photo albums Saturday, two days after her daughter, 34-year-old Jeanette Scholten, was found dead inside a motel room.
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Jeanette Scholten, 34, pictured here in this undated photo, was found strangled to death inside a motel room in The Chatt Inn on E. 23rd Street on Thursday.
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Jeanette Scholten, 34, pictured here in this undated photo, was found strangled to death inside a motel room in The Chatt Inn on E. 23rd Street on Thursday.
Linda Post was in the backyard painting her chicken coop bright red when her daughter called on Monday, so she had her son pick up the phone.

On the other end of the line, Jeanette Scholten was excited.

The 34-year-old had landed a job interview at a restaurant the next day. It sounded like good money, easy work, something similar to the two jobs she'd worked at restaurants in downtown Chattanooga.

Jeanette asked her mom for a ride to the interview and Linda agreed. On Tuesday, Linda called around noon to coordinate the ride. But her daughter's phone went straight to voicemail.

Linda was mad at first. How could Jeanette blow off the interview? But she decided to give her daughter some space. She was a grown woman, after all.

But Jeanette didn't call back, and Linda's calls kept going to voicemail.

By Wednesday, Linda was worried. Her son, Carl Scholten, told her it was probably nothing. Maybe she wanted to spend a couple days with a friend. Maybe she broke her phone.

But then Thursday arrived, and Carl was willing to entertain his mother's concern.

They drove from their home in Rossville up to the Chattanooga extended-stay motel where Jeanette had been living for about six months. They banged on her door, but she didn't answer. They went to the front desk of The Chatt Inn and explained they were family. They just wanted to make sure Jeanette was OK. Make sure she's not dead in there, Carl joked with a smile.

An employee said Jeanette's rent was a day late, so he needed to stop by anyway. He knocked on her door and hollered, "Doorman!"

Then he unlocked it.

"I honestly thought we would find the room empty," Carl said.

***

Linda and Jeanette moved to Chattanooga from Michigan a few months before Jeanette's 21st birthday.

When Jeanette turned 21 that May, Linda took her to TGI Fridays — the one that used to sit by the Tennessee Aquarium — for her first cocktail.

They sat outside, which was a novelty for the Michigan natives, who were used to much colder weather that time of year. Jeanette ordered a strawberry margarita.

"That was a day in the books," Linda said, wistful. "She was so tickled she finally got to go out and order a drink at a restaurant. Her first real cocktail with Mom."

Linda raised Carl and Jeanette as a single mother. In family photos, the siblings hang upside down from a jungle gym. They stand under a flowering pink tree in their Easter best. They dangle fishing rods over a dock, a tiny white fish flipping on the end of one line. Jeanette sits atop a bicycle with training wheels.

But as she grew, Jeanette lived a tough life.

She struggled with mental illness and spent a long time in an abusive relationship. When she managed to get out of that, just over two years ago, things started to turn for the better.

Carl got his sister a job as a cook at Big River Grille in Chattanooga, where she worked for a year.

"She'd never worked in a kitchen before," Carl said. "And I told her, you can do it; you're my big sister. And she became the best pizza cook in the kitchen."

His voice swelled with pride. Recently, Jeanette was doing great, Carl said. She found a place to live, was paying her own bills. She liked living alone, but she was still close to Carl, and to her mom.

"We were a trio," Carl said. "We were never going to separate."

***

When the employee opened the door, Jeanette was lying on the bed, under a blanket, with just her hands and feet visible.

"I've seen her sleep like that a million times," Carl said. "And I'd say 'Jeanette' and her eyes would pop open."

But not this time. The employee reached for Jeanette's right hand to check her pulse, and it was purple.

"She's cold," the man said. "There's no pulse."

Carl looked at his mother.

"She was standing back," he said, sitting at a table in his backyard on Saturday. He met his mother's eyes. "You didn't want to see..."

He stopped, leaned forward, lit a cigarette. For a long moment, no one spoke.

"She was an honor student," Linda said. "She won all sorts of awards. She played first-chair trumpet."

***

The medical examiner determined Jeanette was strangled and his preliminary ruling is homicide.

The police haven't arrested anyone yet. Investigators say they've pulled fingerprints from the room and taken forensic samples.

For Carl and Linda, it's almost too soon to think about justice. They just want to know what happened.

"They took a big chunk of my life away," Linda said. "They took my daughter."

Her daughter, who drove a scooter through the Bahamas. Her daughter, who danced on top of a glass coffee table until it broke and she left bloody footprints all over the living room. Her daughter, who had a sleepover with a bunch of middle-school girls in the basement and smeared makeup all over her face, in all the wrong places, lipstick on her cheeks.

Linda and Carl plan to get a keg — from Big River, free of charge — and celebrate Jeanette's life in their backyard on Saturday. Anyone who wants to remember her can attend, starting at noon, at the little home at 1119 Wilson Road. They're not going to weep and be solemn. She wouldn't have wanted that.

They're going to drink and eat and share their best memories of Jeanette. They hope her friends show up, because they don't have any family nearby.

"It's only us three," Carl said.

"Against the world," Linda said.

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

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