published Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Legal counsel named for Brown in Bledsoe slayings

Brenda Brown, right, is escorted from Bledsoe County General Sessions Court on Friday by Investigator Ricky Seals, left, after a short hearing before Judge Howard Upchurch, far left.  Brown is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Brenda Brown, right, is escorted from Bledsoe County General Sessions Court on Friday by Investigator Ricky Seals, left, after a short hearing before Judge Howard Upchurch, far left. Brown is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PIKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Brenda Brown walked stiffly into the Bledsoe County General Sessions courtroom Friday morning, clad in an orange jumpsuit and shackles and staring straight ahead.

It was Brown's first appearance since her arrest Wednesday in the Aug. 16 slayings of sisters Elizabeth Brown, 82, and Billie Sue Blaylock, 79. She faces two counts of first-degree murder.

When Brown tried to talk to General Sessions Judge Howard Upchurch, she began crying uncontrollably with her head bowed. After a brief, almost inaudible verbal exchange with the judge, she was excused from the room.

On Friday, Brown was appointed a public defender but there was no arraignment or further proceedings because Upchurch recused himself from the case. Upchurch said he had represented the sisters in recent changes to their wills and also had represented Brown in a previous court case.

The will changes are part of the investigation, officials said.

Rhea County General Sessions Judge Jim Mc-Kenzie will hear the case, Upchurch said. A hearing before McKenzie cannot be set until officials discuss scheduling, according to Assistant District Attorney Jim Pope.

Meanwhile, Brown continues to be held without bond.

Authorities say Brown, 47, was close to the sisters, sometimes acting as a caregiver who took them to the doctor. She also was the person who called authorities with the discovery of the sisters' bodies. She attended their funerals last week.

Now she stands accused of killing them.

Bledsoe County Investigator Ricky Seals said Wednesday's search and the discovery of the weapon possibly used in the killings and some of the sisters' property at Brenda Brown's home broke the case and led to her arrest.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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