Defense attorneys plan to finish putting on their case Friday in a 2011 East Ridge slaying that was overturned by the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals.
Randall Reed needs to be imprisoned for life, prosecutors argue, because he wrapped Jane Stokes' head in cellophane, bound her wrists with zip ties, stole her debit card, and left the 71-year-old woman to die on the floor of her home.
But Reed, 50, took the stand Thursday and said he didn't do it.
Yes, he worked on Stokes' fence sometime in April or May of 2011. Yes, an ATM captured him using her debit card and authorities found Stokes' hair and makeup on his clothes. But Reed had an explanation: First, his drug dealer called on June 15, 2011, the morning Stokes was found, and said Reed could have some crack cocaine if he used a debit card to make a few withdrawals. Then, while they were riding around Chattanooga, the dealer transferred Stokes' DNA onto him when he brushed against Reed in the car.
"I get in his vehicle, he hands me the card. He says, 'Don't forget the receipt and everything,'" Reed testified Thursday in Hamilton County Criminal Court. "And then he reaches over and gives me the card and bumps into me and stuff."
To that end, his defense performed a demonstration earlier this week to show how easy it is to transfer DNA.
But prosecutors didn't buy that explanation and spent their cross examination claiming Reed had changed certain parts of his story.
Reed said a few parts of his story may have changed since he'd been on a three-day crack cocaine binge without much sleep when he first spoke to Gwen Cribbs, then a detective with the East Ridge Police Department. Otherwise, he testified to the following:
He and his ex-wife spent the night at a Chattanooga motel on June 14, 2011. His dealer, named Milo, stopped by the hotel and supplied him with drugs, Reed said.
The next morning, Milo called his room and told him about a debit card. If Reed used it to withdraw some cash, he could have crack cocaine in exchange.
"Were you concerned about it?" one of his defense attorneys, Donna Miller, asked.
"Not really, because it's just a misdemeanor," said Reed.
Reed said he later met Milo to withdraw money from a few banks across town. Shortly thereafter, however, local media outlets circulated photos from ATM cameras that showed Reed withdrawing money from Stokes' account within hours of her death. Reed turned himself in shortly after that but told Cribbs that Milo gave him the card.
Cribbs testified Thursday that she ran the name "Milo" through a series of criminal databases and found a man named Milo Geiger who matched the description Reed gave. But it took two years to track Geiger down, Cribbs said. When she finally did, he denied knowing Reed or Stokes.
Defense attorney Fisher Wise questioned why she didn't compare Geiger's DNA to a hand print found on Stokes' front door frame. He said Reed tried to help by giving Cribbs a phone number for "Milo" and offering to do a fake buy with a wire. He also said Reed only knew his dealer as "Milo," and that "Milo" had a different phone number than Milo Geiger.
But Cribbs countered that drug dealers often change their phone numbers. She said she also examined phone records between Reed and Geiger's number that showed Reed calling him numerous times.
"The phone records show he called multiple times to Milo," she said. "Milo never made a phone call to Mr. Reed. And it's multiple. It's like 40 calls within a couple of hours. There's no contact. There were hang-ups or 30 seconds of a phone call between 6:52 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. where he tried to make contact with this drug dealer."
After a trial in 2013, Reed was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. But his case was overturned last year because of an improper mention of polygraphs in court. His trial continues Friday at 8 a.m. before Judge Tom Greenholtz.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.