published Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Terry Releford had history of violence before murder, suicide

Gordon County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department personel work a crime scene at the Budget Inn on U.S. Highway 41, in Calhoun on Monday. The Hamilton Count Sheriff's office said the suspect took his own life after killing his pregnant wife the previous day.
Gordon County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department personel work a crime scene at the Budget Inn on U.S. Highway 41, in Calhoun on Monday. The Hamilton Count Sheriff's office said the suspect took his own life after killing his pregnant wife the previous day.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

Affidavits filed by Bradley County Sheriff's Office investigators reveal details of the crimes that led to Terry Lee Releford's convictions at age 18 for aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and his 15-year prison sentence.

On Aug. 13, 1997, one woman went on a ride with Releford and another man. She was taken to a remote location in southern Bradley County. She was strangled with a shoestring and beaten on her face, upper torso and legs. The men said if she told anyone what happened, they would kill her mother, father, brother and her.

In a separate case a few months later, on Dec. 1, 1997, a 35-year-old Decatur woman ran out of gas while traveling north on Interstate 75. Releford pulled up behind her in a dark blue SUV. He offered her a ride.

The woman described Releford as a husky man with a military recruit-style haircut and brown or blonde hair. Once she was in the SUV, he didn't drive toward a gas station, but instead went south to exit 20, to a remote area on Stone's Lake Road.

He opened the door, grabbed the woman by the throat and told her, "I can kill you here and now!" the report states. The woman told Releford that she had a daughter and granddaughter. She begged for him not to hurt her. He raped her twice. He allowed her to get dressed and took her back to her car. He told her, "Don't die on the way home."

  • photo
    Authorities arrive at the Budget Inn in Gordon County, Ga.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Terry Lee Releford developed a taste for violence at a young age.

When he was 18 years old, he choked and raped two women in southern Bradley County, court records show.

For nearly 15 years, he was locked up in six state prisons serving time for three counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, according to Department of Correction records.

Because Releford committed violent offenses, he was ordered to serve 85 percent of a 17-year sentence with credit for time served as he awaited trial, according to court judgments.

On May 21, 2012, Releford was released from prison. But the taste never went away.

Two months after his release he married Tammy Hale Releford, county records show.

Tammy Releford's Facebook page doesn't have any pictures of her. Smiling pictures of her daughters -- one a teenager and another much younger -- decorate her page.

In June 2012, she posted a picture of Terry Releford sitting in a white rocking chair. Sporting a shaved head, he smiles with closed lips.

"My hunny!!" she wrote.

Tammy, 35, was in late pregnancy when her 34-year-old husband killed her at their home -- with her two daughters in the house -- according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

It appears Tammy was bludgeoned to death, but it's possible she was also shot, Sheriff Jim Hammond said on Monday.

"Because of the damage to the body, we'll have to wait for the autopsy," he said.

One of Tammy's girls managed to run next door to a neighbor's home to call for help.

Deputies responded to the white log cabin-style home at 8912 Lovell Road just after 8 a.m. Sunday.

"It's so sad," said 22-year-old Ashley Young, who lives a couple homes away. "I feel bad for the kids. I never heard [the couple] argue or anything."

Hammond was unable to say whether deputies had been called to the home in the past for domestic calls involving the couple.

County records show Tammy never took out an order of protection against Releford.

State records show that Releford, a registered sex offender, last checked in with authorities as required in March.

He fled the house after the killing and drove to Calhoun, Ga. Investigators tracked him to the Budget Inn, 1442 U.S. Highway 41 in Calhoun, Ga., using cellphone technology. He also phoned dispatch to communicate with investigators outside the motel Monday morning.

And then he took one more life.

He shot himself in the head.

The Soddy-Daisy neighborhood where the couple lived returned to a quiet Monday afternoon.

"This is a quiet residential neighborhood -- certainly not what you would expect," Hammond said.

Tammy's two daughters are staying with family, and investigators plan to talk to the girls about what happened.

On Twitter people came out in support of the girls.

"We may be a slow small town where everyone loves drama, but we always pull together when something tragic happens!" writes Aaron Layne.

"Keep praying ... " Anna Smith writes. "I can't imagine what they went through & what they're still going through."

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