Brenda Franklin buried her 88-year-old stepfather Monday afternoon in Soddy-Daisy's Varner Cemetery. Less than 14 hours later she was killed when an early morning house fire swept through the house they shared.
Now Franklin's son, Gerald "Tony" Dykes, is left to pick up the pieces.
"She was a fine lady and a wonderful mom," he said, his voice tight with emotion.
Neighbor Melissa Green discovered the fire at 4:57 a.m. Tuesday when she saw her bedroom window glowing bright red, right through the shades.
"I opened my blinds and I was like, oh my God," she said. "The flame was up in the air, it was huge. I just thought, please don't let them be home. It was scary, I've never seen a fire like that."
The fire appeared to be concentrated around Franklin's bedroom, and firefighters found her body inside the home at 110 Crawley Road.
Several people lived in the house, Soddy-Daisy Police Chief Phil Hamrick said, including Dykes and Franklin's stepfather, Ralph Burchard. He died Saturday.
"Bless their hearts, they had just had so much going on over there," Green said. "He had just died, and then this. It's just terrible."
Franklin was 68 years old. Dykes said his mom loved to watch TV, and while she could walk, she needed help to take care of herself.
"She was bedridden and I took care of her for the last three years," he said.
In the back corner of the white, gray and yellow house, the roof was gone, the exposed timbers were burned black and the walls were sooty. The family's charred front door was unhinged, lying in the yard with bootprints on it. Water slowly dripped from the walls Tuesday afternoon.
"She was a nice lady," Green said. "I only met her once but she was sweet."
Green said investigators told her Franklin may have fallen asleep in bed with a lighted cigarette, but Hamrick said the cause of the fire hasn't been determined.
"We're looking at everything right now," he said. "Anytime there is a human life involved we want to handle it as if something is suspicious until we've ruled it all out."
The next step is determining whether the fire was intentionally set, he said.
"Miss Franklin's body was sent to the forensic center to determine the cause of death," Hamrick said. "We collected samples and sent them to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab to determine if any type of accelerant was used."
Hamrick said the damage to the home was extensive but he couldn't pinpoint a specific dollar amount.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...