published Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Violence against women, domestic killings account for most of Chattanooga region's slayings

Investigators help a man carry items from the scene of the May 2012 slayings of Donald Shedd and Jessica Neal in the Dawnville community in northern Whitfield County, Ga.
Investigators help a man carry items from the scene of the May 2012 slayings of Donald Shedd and Jessica Neal in the Dawnville community in northern Whitfield County, Ga.
Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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In several gruesome killings last year, women in violent relationships were the targets.

The victims included Jessica Neal, whose husband, Adolph "Sonny" Neal, is accused of stabbing her over and over, and Mary Sue Benson, whose husband of three years, James Benson, pumped her body full of bullets in a hospital waiting room. Both women died along with relatives caught in the violence.

In other killings in the Chattanooga area, police say sons, brothers and nephews were responsible for killing multiple family members. In some cases, records later showed the family member already had made threats and in some cases police had been called to the houses many times.

North Georgia homicides

Catoosa County

July 9: Terry Saxton, 50, was charged with beating to death his live-in girlfriend, Vicki Lacombe, 55. Police said he first lied that he found Lacombe lying on the floor inside their home, but an autopsy showed Lacombe had blunt-force trauma to the head and abdomen. Saxton then was arrested. In October, he was indicted on counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

Gordon County

Feb. 20: Matthew Rhinehart, who had harassed his parents and threatened to kill them, allegedly shot and killed his 62-year-old father, Steve, in his workshop. Reports show Rhinehart had been living with his parents off and on for several months, but a judge had ordered him to stay away after he continually made threats. Rhinehart was charged with six felonies including malice murder and felony murder. His jury trial is set for Jan. 7.

June 1: Doug Parker, 54, was charged with killing his mother, Edna Sue Fields, 71, and his sister, Becky Wade 45. Parker and his wife, Janet, had been staying with his mother for about six months. Records showed he had threatened to kill his mother after she and Wade tried to break him of a prescription drug addiction. Parker was indicted on multiple charges including malice murder and two counts of felony murder.

Murray County

Nov. 23: Charles Congden, 39, was stabbed once in the chest and collapsed on a neighbor's porch after drinking and playing pool with three friends. Dwane Fowler, 36, was charged with felony murder. Fowler's roommate, 41-year-old Randy Campbell, was charged with being party to a crime, along with 54-year-old James Patterson, arrest reports show.

Walker County

Jan. 6: A week into the new year, James Benson, a former security guard, opened fire in an intensive care unit waiting room at a North Georgia hospital, pumping bullets into his estranged wife and mother-in-law. Mary Sue Benson, 56, who worked at a school cafeteria, and her mother, Charlotte Johnson, 77, were at Erlanger at Hutcheson visiting Johnson's daughter, who was being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Five months after the shooting on May 17, Benson pleaded guilty to two counts of malice murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Whitfield County

April 29: Emilio Canales Jr. was charged with killing his father, Emilio Canales Sr., and his older brother, Francisco, and injuring his mother, Deborah. Police swarmed the neighborhood with handguns drawn after Deborah ran to the house of a neighbor who called 911. Canales Jr. was captured later that afternoon after police got an accurate description of the escape car. The 27-year-old was charged with two counts of murder and aggravated assault.

May 24: Adolph "Sonny" Neal led police on a weeklong manhunt in May after he was suspected of stabbing his wife to death and beating her grandfather with a wrench. Neal, 49, of Dawnville, was captured 12 miles from his home in the woods in Varnell, Ga., and charged with two counts of malice murder. Friends and family said Neal was obsessive and easily jealous of his wife, Jessica 27. In November, a Whitfield County grand jury indicted Neal.

Southeast Tennessee homicides

Franklin County

Oct. 17: Gregory Booton, 49, of Winchester, was charged with criminal homicide after police said he drew a .380-caliber pistol on John Tucker, 46, and shot him during an argument. Police said Booton, who had a gun permit, shot Tucker at four spots along North Jefferson Street. Booton's case was bound over to the grand jury, which will meet this month.

July 2: Donnie Frank Jones Jr. was charged with the murder and rape of nursing student Megan Sharpton in July and is awaiting a mental evaluation. Prosecutors are deciding whether to seek the death penalty against Jones, whom police accuse of burning Sharpton's body and leaving it near a bridge over Tims Ford Lake. Jones, from Tullahoma, was charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape. A hearing is set for Jan. 15.

Nov. 28: Michael Curtis, 49, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kayla Qualls. Curtis was arrested after a police search of a Tullahoma home where Curtis lived with his son, Nick, the father of Qualls' two children. Qualls had gone to the Curtis home to pick up her son early when police said a domestic problem happened. Police believe Curtis killed Qualls and put her into her Ford Explorer, then ditched both in a grassy area.

Grundy County

March 22: Daniel Clay McDaniel was charged with homicide after a heated fight with Joshua Wade Stevens, 26. Police said McDaniel shot Stevens with a 9 mm pistol. Before Stevens died, police said he shouted "You've killed me," then collapsed. McDaniel is scheduled for a Feb. 11 hearing.

July 29: An argument over $25 left Corey Henry dead and Kurt Brewer, 31, charged with first-degree murder in Grundy County. The shooting happened after the two men argued all day over a $25 debt, police say. Police say Henry shot Brewer several times in his leg and back. Henry was indicted in November and is free on bond.

Oct. 5: Troy Dent, 44, was charged with second-degree murder after police said he fatally attacked Doug Birdwell, 63, with a ball-peen hammer. Birdwell died of severe brain injury, and a month later Dent turned himself in to the sheriff's office after warrants were issued for his arrest. Dent was indicted in November and is free on bond.

McMinn County

Aug. 26: Dennis Patterson, a Calhoun, Tenn., volunteer firefighter, was found shot and stabbed to death after he had been mowing his lawn. Jason Baker, who was Patterson's nephew and lived with his uncle, was charged with first-degree murder. Police believe Baker was suffering from a mental defect and that he and his uncle had been in an argument before the killing.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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