Mark Howard was the last person to walk into Jeanette Scholten's motel room before her mother and brother found her dead inside, Chattanooga police said.
Surveillance video shows Howard, 52, walking into Scholten's room at 7:45 p.m. on March 21, carrying two large bags. He left the next day, carrying three large bags.
Then, no one entered or left the room until March 24, when Scholten's family arrived and found her body. Scholten, 34, had been strangled, according to a preliminary investigation by the Hamilton County medical examiner. The office has not yet finished Scholten's autopsy.
Howard has been charged with criminal homicide and is being held on a $250,000 bond, according to court records.
The same day Howard left Scholten's room, he went to a bus stop near the intersection of Fourth Avenue and East 23rd Street, where he spoke with a woman, according to police. The woman, who was not identified by name in police records, told investigators she also lived in the Chatt Inn and rode that bus every day.
She said Howard told her he'd spent the night with the "redhead girl" — a nickname for Scholten — and that Scholten had wanted him to leave, but he didn't want to.
Video from the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority corroborates the woman's story, according to police.
Howard, who has a long criminal history in Hamilton County, also sent Scholten text messages. In one message at 7:43 p.m. on March 21, Howard texted Scholten the words "open door."
He entered her room two minutes later.
Howard was also the last person to call Scholten before her phone became inoperable, according to police.
His criminal history includes a felony conviction for possession of LSD, multiple counts of burglary, theft and aggravated assault, as well as public intoxication, vandalism and forgery.
He is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County General Sessions Court on May 19.
Scholten was the seventh person to be killed in Chattanooga in 2016. There have been seven more homicides since her death, bringing the year's total to 14.
Police have arrested suspects in four of those deaths, according to The Toll, a database of homicides maintained by the Times Free Press at timesfreepress.com/thetoll. In another three cases, police questioned a suspect but did not file charges.
Seven other homicides remain unsolved.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury @timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @ShellyBradbury.