published Friday, September 21st, 2012

Neighbors leery after slaying of Jo Anne DeSha in Chattanooga

2302 Marco Circle
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As family members lay a 75-year-old woman to rest today, Chattanooga police still are working to find her killer.

Jo Anne DeSha was in her home Saturday morning at 2302 Marco Circle when someone attacked her. She was choked to death with the cord of a vacuum cleaner, according to police.

There was no forced entry to her home, which occupied the corner lot leading into the Meadowbrook Heights subdivision.

Black dust from where investigators tried to lift fingerprints was still smeared on the home's pale blue front door Thursday afternoon.

It was a challenge for investigators to collect physical evidence from the small home built in 1961. Clutter and dust hindered their efforts, they said, and it's unclear if anything was taken.

Three vehicles, including a gray sedan with plates dating to the 1990s, remained parked in her driveway.

Whoever killed her "had to know she lived alone," said Billie Ball, who lives a few blocks away from DeSha. "People passing by would think several people live in that household with the cars."

Ball normally walks the neighborhood and crosses Standifer Gap Road where DeSha's subdivision begins. Sometimes they would speak as Ball walked by.

"She was very friendly," Ball said. "I just saw her a few days before it happened."

Her death has "made us more leery," said Ball, whose children attended Tyner High School with DeSha's children. "We're going to be more careful. It's terrible. I just hope and pray that the person is brought to justice."

Family members posted DeSha's pictures on Facebook. A black-and-white photograph dated May 1959 shows a fresh-faced DeSha sitting on the back of a vehicle smiling with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and curled bangs swept to the side. Another faded picture shows DeSha seated with her children, Don and Kim — all smiling — in front of what appeared to be camellia bushes.

Anyone with any information about DeSha's death can call Chattanooga police at 698-2525.

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