The brother of a 30-year-old woman who was stabbed to death in her Highland Park apartment on June 4 said he convinced his sister to move into the home just weeks before her death.
Ashley Cates was found by emergency responders, dead from multiple apparent stab wounds, in her home on the 1500 block of Bailey Avenue, according to court documents.
Police saw blood smeared on the floor outside the victim's apartment as well as blood on the door of a neighboring apartment, according to the arrest report. Officers attempted to make contact with anyone inside that apartment, but there was no answer. Officers breached the door and found Tyrone Murphy, 57, sitting in bed with freshly stitched wounds on his right palm and thumb.
During an investigation of the scene, a large trash bag was discovered in the laundry room of the apartment building with bloody towels and the victim's personal belongings. It was also discovered there was a trail of blood leading from the victim's apartment to Murphy's and it was apparent someone had tried to clean up the scene.
He was taken into custody and charged with criminal homicide and tampering with evidence. His next court appearance is scheduled for today before General Sessions Judge Alex McVeagh.
A few days after her death, Matthew David Cates, the victim's older brother, posted on Facebook about the tragedy, writing that she had expressed concerns to him about living on her own.
"That was the last face-to-face conversation I had with my sister before she was brutally murdered in her apartment," he wrote.
He wrote that he and his sister had a rocky relationship and, in recent months, she found herself in a precarious financial position, so she moved in with her brother and his fiancée to get back on her feet.
After coaching her through some basic life lessons like budgeting, he helped her find the apartment she moved into. He said there weren't any red flags about the situation, and Murphy seemed like a fine neighbor.
"He was a 57-year-old man that lived down the hall. He had lived in the house for three years and had never caused any problems. He worked two jobs and helped the landlord keep up the property," he wrote.
"He broke into my sister's apartment early Sunday morning with the intent to assault her sexually She fought back so hard that when he realized he couldn't get what he had went in for, he killed her."
Her brother went on to say that although he considers Murphy "a monster," he doesn't want to see him put to death.
"I don't want Tyrone to die. What good would that do? It wouldn't bring Ashley back. Though I'd certainly like to see him locked up so he can never hurt anyone else. Revenge and anger are not the solutions in this terrible situation," he said.
That said, he wrote that his sister's death has had far-reaching implications for everyone who knew her.
"I'd like to sit down in front of [Murphy] and let him know that he took much more than just my sister. He took my mother's and stepfather's sanity with the image he left for them to find forever imprinted in their minds He took a daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend that will be sorely missed by many," he wrote.
"I'd tell him she hasn't been able to leave my side in four days, for fear of someone hurting her. I'd let him know that he took away my word and made me into a liar, since I promised Ashley she'd be safe there. I'd let him know that he made my sister's biggest fear come true."
The portion of Highland Park where Cates was killed hasn't seen many homicides in recent years, according to Times Free Press records. The nearest one to the 1500 block of Bailey was the June 2014 homicide of Charlie King, 41, who was shot multiple times on the 1400 block of Bennett Avenue.
Ashley Cates was buried Friday, but her friends have continued to post photos of her online with memories, thoughts and prayers for the family.
"My heart is breaking & I feel sick that this happened," Amy Allara wrote on Facebook.
"Ashley Cates was the reason for so many people's smiles she cared about everyone unconditionally, knew no strangers & was loving. We always think we have time to reconnect with friends or we will see them later when there's more time but every single day is a gift & not guaranteed."
"There was such an innocence about you that I will never forget. Your smile was as contagious as your spirit. You were so compassionate & had such a genuine love in your heart. You will be enormously missed my precious niece," Cheryl Cates Mercer wrote.
Cates was the second person to be stabbed to death in Chattanooga this year and her death marks the 13th homicide. At the same time last year, there had been 15 homicides.
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.