published Friday, November 30th, 2012

Children's granddad charged in mom's death

Michael Lee Curtis
Michael Lee Curtis
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The grandfather of slain 23-year-old Tullahoma, Tenn., resident Kayla D. Qualls' children was charged late Wednesday with her killing, investigators say.

Michael L. Curtis, 49, is being held on $1 million bond in Coffee County, Tenn., on charges of first-degree murder following a search of the home in Tullahoma he shared with his son, Nick, the father of Qualls' two children, according to Franklin County, Tenn., Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Guess.

Michael Curtis will appear in Coffee County General Sessions Court on Monday.

Preliminary autopsy results show Qualls died of blunt force trauma to the head, officials said.

Detectives determined the killing happened at the Curtis home where Qualls' former boyfriend, Nick Curtis, and his father, Michael Curtis, lived, according to Guess, who acted as spokesman on the arrest for Franklin County and Coffee County authorities. Nick Curtis remains a "person of interest" in the investigation, but no charges have been filed against him, though officials said he was present during the killing.

Michael Curtis gave a police statement "implicating himself" in the killing, Guess said.

The mother of two went to the Curtis home at 603 General St. in Tullahoma to pick up her son early Monday when "some sort of domestic issue" arose, Guess said.

Officials from Franklin and Coffee counties, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tullahoma and Estill Springs, Tenn., police departments searched the Curtis home Monday, then returned Wednesday when they gathered information and evidence that led to the arrest, he said.

Investigators now say that Michael Curtis killed Qualls at the house on General Street, put her into her 2000 Ford Explorer and ditched both in a grassy area on Spring Creek Road in Franklin County.

A pair of hunters discovered that scene Monday morning.

Guess would not discuss details of the physical encounter that led to Qualls' death or whether a weapon was used or found. He also declined to say whether children were present when Qualls was killed, though she was reportedly there to pick up her 4-year-old son.

Qualls also leaves behind a 2-year-old daughter. The boy initially was reported to be a year older because of an upcoming birthday, Guess said. Both now are in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

The Tullahoma Police Department is the prosecuting agency in the case.

Chief Paul Blackwell said the tragic result of Qualls' encounter with Michael Curtis is "a young girl is dead and two kids [are] without a mother."

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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