A Chattanooga man who shot and killed his girlfriend during a fight over the summer did so accidentally, his public defender argued Tuesday in Hamilton County General Sessions Court.
All the evidence points to the fact the killing was an accident, Jay Underwood said of his client, Reginald Woods. "Some of the other evidence points to the fact that he did not want her to be killed. The easiest thing to do would be to run — but he didn't do that. He called the police, stayed on the scene, he cooperated with police, and he told them what happened."
General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck still sent Woods' criminal homicide charge to the grand jury Tuesday, but not before lowering his bond from $335,000 to $150,000 as well as dismissing two gun charges: possession of a firearm during commission of a felony and unlawful possession of a weapon.
Police arrested Woods after they say he shot and killed Katrina Holloway during an argument on July 20 in her apartment at 1258 Cypress Street Court. Woods, who also goes by "Reginald Oakley" and "Joker," said Holloway assumed he was cheating on her and grabbed a silver revolver from a sofa cushion. As they argued in the kitchen, Woods said, Holloway tried to "snatch" the revolver back and the gun accidentally fired. Police found her with one gunshot wound to the chest.
As a convicted felon, Woods cannot legally possess a firearm, hence the gun charges. But as Shattuck noted, the only proof before the court is Holloway was the one who had the gun. Plus, police never recovered the gun at the scene.
"I'm going to send [the case to the grand jury] on homicide, but it may be more negligent homicide," Shattuck said.
Though Underwood argued no motive existed for the slaying, prosecutor Kevin Brown said he had ample proof of a homicide. Brown pointed to Woods' criminal history to discourage a bond reduction: A plea to voluntary manslaughter in 1997 after initially being charged with first-degree murder. A 2011 arrest for attempted first-degree murder that prosecutors later dismissed. Five federal drug-related offenses.
"Based on the wound, Mr. Woods' account to detective [Corey] Stokes, and the fact the weapon is not recovered — somehow the weapon magically walks off — I think there's sufficient proof to bind it over as a criminal homicide," Brown said.
Prosecutors could present more evidence to the grand jury to support a specific murder charge — first-degree, second-degree, voluntary manslaughter. If grand jurors choose to formally indict him, Woods can then continue to fight his case in Hamilton County Criminal Court.
Underwood used Tuesday to start challenging the state's evidence.
Police said Woods' account wasn't consistent with Holloway's injuries and suggested in a court document that someone else shot Holloway. But Underwood disputed that, saying Holloway had particles of burned gunpowder on her skin called "stippling." That meant the revolver would be close to Holloway, lining up with Woods' assertion that he was "kind of pushing the gun away," Underwood said.
Holloway's son, 11 at the time, was also in the residence during the shooting and gave a recorded interview that attorneys didn't play Tuesday. Other people came to the residence after the accident but before police arrived, Underwood said. But police couldn't preserve any surveillance of who entered the room, making it harder to learn who all was there.
Further proof could still develop. Chattanooga detective Stokes said police plan to send more evidence to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for testing.
In the meantime, Woods, who is being held at the Hamilton County Jail, is a well-known community figure beyond this charge. When violence surged in early 2013, he organized a meeting between gang leaders that resulted in a temporary truce. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade and began to hone a "wicked reputation on the streets" during the 1990s for robbing drug dealers, Times Free Press archives show.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.