Prosecution shows zip ties that allegedly link man to 2011 East Ridge slaying

Prosecution shows zip ties that allegedly link man to 2011 East Ridge slaying

July 18th, 2018 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

At the outset of his murder trial, Randall Reed, right, takes his seat alongside attorney Fisher Wise, left, Tuesday in Judge Tom Greenholtz's courtroom.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

The prosecutor Wednesday carried a bulky bag to the police officer sitting on the witness stand. Across the room, Randall Reed, 50, watched as authorities discussed a piece of evidence they believe shows his connection to a 2011 slaying of an elderly woman.

"What am I handing you here?" Assistant District Attorney Andrew Coyle asked Daniel Stephenson, of the East Ridge Police Department.

Stephenson looked inside the bag. "This is an evidence bag containing the package you see in the photograph. It's a 100-count of 8-inch cable ties that were opened. They were counted," Stephenson said, "and it contained 78 out of the original 100."

Prosecutors, who began retrying Reed earlier this week in Hamilton County Criminal Court, say those zip ties are essential. On June 15, 2011, a neighbor discovered Jane Stokes on the floor of her home with cellophane wrapped over her head and zip ties around her wrists. In April and May, Reed had worked for a few days building a fence at her home and knew her routine, authorities say.

Around the same time, Stokes' bank noticed unusual withdrawals from her account, and local media released photos that showed Reed using her debit card at local ATMs. Reed turned himself in. And when police later searched his family's residence, they found zip ties similar to those on Stokes in the garage, prosecutors said Wednesday. They also say Stokes' makeup and DNA are on one of Reed's shirts that police collected.

Reed, who was convicted in 2013 but had his case overturned last year because of an improper mention of a polygraph in court, already pleaded guilty to numerous counts of fraudulent use of a debit card. But he denies being involved in Stokes' slaying. His defense attorneys, Donna Miller and Fisher Wise, have argued that Reed received Stokes' debit card from his alleged drug dealer. That dealer told Reed, who struggles with crack cocaine addiction, to withdraw money in exchange for drugs, Miller said.

On Wednesday, Wise argued that it's easy to transfer makeup and DNA from one person to another. He pointed out the zip ties collected by the state aren't a very distinguishable brand and that authorities have no way to tell whether the ties came from the package they collected. Wise also argued that East Ridge officers could have collected and analyzed more evidence, specifically a reddish handprint on Stokes' door, to better understand what happened.

Prosecutors still have one more witness to call before their case is finished: Hamilton County Medical Examiner James Metcalfe. After that, Wise and Miller can call Reed to the stand or submit other proof to the jurors. They estimated it would take nearly a full day to present their defense.

They could call Milo Geiger, Reed's alleged drug dealer. According to a 2013 Times Free Press article, Geiger testified in Reed's first trial that he'd never met Stokes and didn't know Reed. Geiger testified he'd offered to take a lie detector test when police interviewed him, which is mostly why Reed's conviction was overturned in 2017.

According to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in his case, attorneys cannot mention polygraphs in court since they're considered unreliable and inadmissible.

The trial continues today at 8:30 a.m. before Judge Tom Greenholtz.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.