UPDATE 2: Charges upgraded against man involved in East Ridge murder
EAST RIDGE, HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Investigators now believe the man who was using Jane Stokes' bank cards, is the same man who murdered her.
Randall Reed was charged with first degree murder in East Ridge Court, Tuesday afternoon, but her friends are still struggling for answers.
The man accused of murdering 70 year old Jane Stokes makes his way out of court, the very same day those who loved her gather for a memorial.
"It's just hard to understand how that could happen how anyone in their right mind could ever consider," says Tom Hays.
Tom and Lois Hays say Stokes had become more like a sister than a friend to them over the past several years.
"Beautiful lady, quiet, tender to animals...she loved people," says Hays.
The Hays are now struggling to make sense of their dear friend's murder.
Stokes was found dead in her East Ridge home last week. The medical examiner states probable cause of death as suffocation, due to plastic wrap around her head.
"It's been very difficult, knowing her that long and intimately, now she's not around, we can't call or see her, it's absolutely devastating," says Hayes.
Police have now charged Randall Reed with first degree murder. Investigators originally charged him with theft after they say he was caught on tape using Stokes' bank cards, just hours after her murder.
"Anyone who would betray that trust it's bad, how can you do that? Especially to an elderly woman," wonders Hays.
Investigators have refused to share any possible connection between Stokes and Reed. Hays says Reed was apparently part of a crew Stokes hired to take care of chimney damage. He also says Stokes' children were visiting her just days before she was murdered.
"We feel so bad for her family and other friends, because they feel the same and she touched many people in this city," says Hays.
Reed is charged with 1st degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. He's expected in court again July 5th.
EAST RIDGE, HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) – East Ridge Police have upgraded charges against 43-year-old Randall Reed.
Reed is now charged with First Degree Murder and Especially Aggravated Robbery in connection with the murder of Jane Stokes on June, 15th.
Investigators worked to process the large amount of evidence collected and to follow up on numerous leads that were received.
Mr. Reed appeared in East Ridge Municipal Court, Tuesday night, where the additional warrants were served.
Reed is being held without bond and is scheduled to reappear in East Ridge Municipal Court on Tuesday, July, 5th.
Channel 3 has learned from Stokes' friend and co-workers that she knew Randall Reed.
"One of her neighbor's trees fell on the side of her house during the April storms," says Tom Hays. "The tree damaged her chimney, she had to have it fixed."
Tom and Lois Hays are the reason 70-year-old Jane Stokes first started attending First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga 10 years ago.
Last Wednesday a neighbor went to check on Stokes and found her lying on her bedroom floor. Her hands were tied behind her back, and a plastic bag was wrapped around her head.
"It's just been absolutely devastating," Hays says.
Last Thursday East Ridge Police released a picture of Reed at an ATM machine using Stokes credit card. According his court affidavit Reed used the card within an hour and a half of her death. The 43-year-old turned himself in after seeing his picture on the news.
"He worked on her chimney," Hays says. According to a co-worker at the accounting firm where Jane Stokes worked for 20 years, she'd talked about hiring a man to do yard work.
Stokes' neighbors say they saw Reed on Hardin Drive before, looking around and asking for work.
For Stokes' friends and family understanding why this had to happen is the hardest part.
"It's just hard to understand," Hays says. "We know God has a plan and eventually we'll understand. It's just really difficult right now."
A memorial service for Stokes was held at First Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
Channel 3 also spoke with Reed's mother before his charges were upgraded Tuesday. She declined to comment on the investigation but called her son a "nonviolent" person.