published Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Slaying trial date set in Coffee County, TN

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

A man charged with killing his grandchildren's mother in November 2012 is set for trial in August in a first-degree murder case in Coffee County, Tenn.

Michael L. Curtis -- now 50 and charged in the Nov. 26, 2012, slaying of the 23-year-old mother, Kayla D. Qualls -- faces an Aug. 25 trial date on the murder charge, according to Coffee County Circuit Court records and District Attorney Mickey Layne's office.

Curtis' lawyer, assistant public defender Jess Stockwell, declined comment on the case.

"At this point, we are waiting for any motions to be filed by the defense," assistant district attorney Kristy West said Tuesday. She and lead assistant district attorney Ken Shelton are prosecuting the case.

No defense motions have been filed, West said.

Curtis was arrested Nov. 28, 2012, following a search of the home in Tullahoma he shared with his son, Nick, the father of Qualls' two children. She was a 2007 Moore County High School graduate, last seen alive the morning of her slaying.

According to testimony in a preliminary hearing last March, Qualls went to pick up her children from Curtis' home on General Street in Tullahoma where he lived with his son and father of the children, Nick Curtis, the Tullahoma News reported.

In a videotaped statement, Quall's then-4-year-old son told investigators that his grandfather "hit mama and knocked her down and choked her," the report states. Curtis then sent the child to his room.

During questioning, Curtis said that Qualls put her finger on his nose when he told her that he didn't want her boyfriend correcting his grandchildren, a district attorney's office investigator testified last March.

The investigator testified that Curtis said Qualls then spit in his face and that the grandfather "went off and killed her."

Curtis struck Qualls several times, choked her and dragged her to the back porch where he struck her four or five more times with a baseball bat.

Curtis then put Qualls into her 2000 Ford Explorer and drove her to a wooded area on Spring Creek Road in Franklin County, Tenn., where he left her body and vehicle, according to testimony last March.

Authorities say a pair of hunters came upon the grisly scene on Nov. 26, 2012.

Nick Curtis, named early on as a "person of interest," was not charged in connection with Qualls' killing, but he was charged recently with filing a false report for allegedly lying to police during the investigation of his father. West said Nick Curtis faces a court appearance on that charge this week.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

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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